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Letters about “The Stolen Years, Part One”


We Knew It Was Wrong
I often wonder how many Americans are aware that a number of Seattle residents in 1942 knew that the internment of the Seattle Japanese community—whether citizens or not—was wrong. No people of Italian or German ancestry were subjected to the same treatment. At Christmas time in 1941, some of us tried through small gifts to express our sympathies to any of the soon-to-be departed Japanese we knew. But we had no way of adequately compensating them for the loss of homes and other property as well as for the undeserved humiliation they suffered as a result of their ethnic origin.

Nancy Ann Holtz, ’70, ’77
Beverly, Mass.

It Happened in America
The cover story, “The Stolen Years,’ in the December issue brought back vivid memories of the deportation of Japanese from Bainbridge Island in 1942. At that time my family was living in Manchester, a village across Puget Sound between Seattle and Bremerton.

Blackouts, air raid wardens, barrage balloons, gun emplacements and rationing were all new experiences to a fifth grader. Everyone was expecting another Pearl Harbor. … Metal ID tags were recommended by the teacher in our two-room schoolhouse. I can remember having mine engraved at a jewelers in Seattle. It turned my wrist green but I still wore it. Rumors were rampant that the Japanese farmers on Bainbridge Island plowed their fields with furrows pointing toward the naval shipyard in Bremerton. This was to direct Japanese bombers to the shipyard. The reason given for the deportation was “to protect them from harm.”

On a rainy, dreary Sunday morning, most of the town congregated at the ferry dock to see deportees put aboard a ferry. Army trucks drove onto the dock to await the arrival of the chartered ferry. Each truck was loaded with Japanese families and guarded by soldiers with rifles. The ferry docked and the deportees were herded aboard. Each had two suitcases or boxes containing all the belongings they were allowed to take to the internment camp. It was a very solemn occasion. It’s hard to believe that this happened in America.

Jim Mitchell, ’53
Madison, Conn.

‘Relocating’ Japanese Americans
Your article on the Japanese Americans in the current Columns deserves some comment. You tell us that Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps and confined there during World War II. This is not true. They were prohibited from remaining in the West Coast area. If they could not—or would not—relocate elsewhere, they were sent to relocation camps, not internment camps. In Oregon and Washington, the prohibited area involved was roughly everything west of Highway 97.

An example of how the relocation could be handled was the experience of a friend of mine, Masa Yano. He was a year behind me in the Baker City, Ore., schools. When the war broke out he was in school at UW. He elected to relocate himself. He did not find a ready job in Baker so he went to Ontario and began working on a large farm. This kept him out of the prohibited area. Being a bright and industrious fellow, he did quite well and eventually bought this same farm.

The Japanese aliens were treated somewhat differently and some were confined to internment camps. You do your readers a disservice when you do not differentiate between the internees and the Japanese Americans who merely had to relocate.

Carl T. Kostol, ’48
Baker City, Ore.

Editor’s Note: For a while after Pearl Harbor, Japanese American students whose permanent address was outside the exclusion zone were able to leave for home, such as eastern Oregon. However, after General John L. DeWitt’s proclamation of March 27, 1942, Japanese Americans residing in the exclusion zone had no choice. Unless they had special permission, they had to relocate to “assembly centers,” usually with only seven days’ notice. There was no difference between aliens and U.S. citizens of Japanese descent—all were incarcerated in the same camps.

An Insult to Those Who Persevered
I have never written a letter to the editor before. I received the March 2006 issue of Columns and am compelled to write this in response to Carl T. Kostol’s letter.

I am a fourth generation Japanese American who was born and raised in Seattle. I am very proud of the fact that my grandfather and my great-uncle volunteered for the U.S. Army and served in the 442nd Regiment while they, and their families, were being “merely relocated” to camps, as Kostol so poorly put it. I feel that the sacrifice that this generation of Japanese Americans made, and many did so with their lives, paved the path for my generation and enabled us to assimilate in this great country of ours.

My mother is turning 75 this year and remains in the Seattle area. She, along with my father, both sets of grandparents and extended family were all sent to the internment camps. Homes, businesses and other property were basically lost by this group of American citizens because of the hysteria that ran rampant. More importantly, lives were changed forever.

Kostol states that Columns is doing its readers a disservice, and I quote, “when you do not differentiate between the internees and the Japanese Americans who merely had to relocate.”

I believe that Kostol is caught up in the semantics of this issue, and it is he who is guilty of the disservice. Looking at this as if it were a mere inconvenience to be relocated to the internment camps is an insult to all of those who persevered during this shameful period in our history.

Scott T. Koizumi ’85
Fairfield, Calif.

Bringing Clarity
Living in Idaho and Washington most of my life, I knew something of the imprisonment of Japanese American citizens during World War II. Your well-researched article, “The Stolen Years,” brought clarity and another dimension to the subject. I recently learned that not all of the young men in the internment camps eagerly volunteered to serve in the war, however. Some protested the injustice of internment by not volunteering and resisting the draft, and were subsequently prosecuted and served prison terms. Most were later pardoned or exonerated, but the insult to grave injury had already reaped its toll. Frank Abe’s moving documentary, “Conscience and the Constitution,” is the story of these resisters; for more information, visit: www.pbs.org/itvs/conscience/the_film.

Catherine Clemens, ’96
Seattle

Never Again
Kudos on a well-written article about an often forgotten subject that remains a dark page in U.S. history and was devastating for the local Asian American community. I am reminded of the outstanding slide presentations on the Minidoka internment camp that later became a video and a book, This Was Minidoka, by former internees Jack and Dorothy Yamaguchi. (Their son, Gordon Yamaguchi, ’77, went on to graduate from the University of Washington.) It amazes me that it took the government until 1976, more than 30 years after the war, to finally atone for its mistake and formally revoke Executive Order 9066. In the face of growing concerns of domestic terrorism, let us hope that the government never again makes the same mistake of stripping its citizens of their civil liberties.

Shawn Morse, ’91
Snohomish

Good Men, Bad Decisions
My parents—Warren Smith, ’43, and Jean Laughlin Smith, ’43—were students at the UW when the internment occurred. My mother had a particular friend, Lillian Kubota. She remembers that “the police came to the dorm ... dragged her out of her room …” and she never saw her again. Kubota was from Metaline Falls and as my mother, a lifelong Republican sneers, “However possibly could she have been a spy in Metaline?!”

…My parents decided to try by all means to instill a deep respect for other cultures and a total loathing of racism. They, along with other members of our Presbyterian church, spent over 20 years bringing foreign students from the UW every Thanksgiving to stay in our homes. It was a massive project, often involving as many as 50 students. As kids growing up in a small town in the ’50s, it was magical: They came down on the train Wednesday night. We met them and sorted out who was in each home. Generally we had two, but sometimes even three students. I remember African, Japanese, an Indian man who could literally move his stomach, Thai. We grew up thinking everyone had a similar experience. They brought gifts and loved the Thanksgiving meal. Thursday night generally was a party of five or six families at someone’s home, with leftovers. Friday they would tour local industry and Friday night was another magical time, with each student giving a dance or a brief skit or just a simple speech about their country at a gathering at the church. Saturday we sadly put them back on the train for Seattle.

So I grew up…to go to the UW in the wonderful ’60s, fell for Jack Dull’s incredible introduction to Asian history and graduated in 1969 with a B.A. in Chinese language and literature. [Yes, I sat next to Ted Bundy in class; yes, he was a jerk.] In Chinese language classes I met my children’s father, a 1969 graduate too—Arlucius Q. Stephens III. He and his friends made us ill because they had studied Chinese at Yale while in the Air Force and had brilliant language skills. He also happened to have brown eyes and curly hair … very curly hair. My parents’ reaction to their daughter’s marriage to an African American in 1968 was typical. They were just ecstatic to have a son-in-law with a college degree.

When our daughter, Cinnamon, graduated from Williams College in 1991, I heard a brilliant man give a brilliant speech. He told us four simple tales, and one was of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the internments. To paraphrase, he said, “Good men make bad decisions … for what they think at the time are good reasons.” My parents had to endure the loss of their Japanese American friends, forever. What they decided to do was raise us without the concept of racism, and virtually no distinction based on religion or culture. It was priceless. You could say that those horrible times taught at least two young Americans,  early in their lives, that very good people can be terribly abused by well-meaning, but terribly wrong, “patriotic” actions. Perhaps if either President Bush or Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had been at the UW at that time, tens of thousands of young Iraqi citizens might still be alive.

By the way, the teacher on Bainbridge Island who last year was excoriated for teaching this era was also raised in Chehalis, in that same Presbyterian church and her parents worked with mine for all those years to bring those foreign students to our homes. As she said then, regarding the internments, “There are some things that we can say aren’t debatable anymore."

Susan Smith Stephens, ’69
Seattle

When Help Was Needed Most
Your detective work and writing is appreciated by one of the alumni from the war years. … I cannot resist pointing out that the UW YW-YMCA at Eagleson Hall was particularly supportive and influential in counseling Nisei students, arranging for them to go back East, getting them into colleges, finding jobs and places to live in faraway places. Floyd Schmoe and the American Friends Service Committee, as well as individuals such as Mary Farquarson (legislator and ACLU activist), Art Barnett (attorney), Ruth Haines and Woody Woodward (YWCA and YMCA executive secretaries respectively) and certain UW professors were devoted to the Nisei students when their help was needed most.

Lois Logan Horn, ’44
Seattle

Editor’s Note:
For more on local support of Nisei students in 1942, please see “Prelude.”

Answering Questions
I was very pleased to see your excellent piece in Columns on the West Coast Nisei/Japanese internment actions, the background social climate, the timings, and the select workarounds attempted. I had inquired about this some years back and your opening article answered so many of the questions I had back then. I am anxiously awaiting the second part.

Larry Nault, ’59
Basking Ridge, NJ

A Fatal Return
The article on the deplorable internment of Japanese American citizens in World War II was well done. Although not closely related to this the following may be of interest.

Two of civil engineering’s Class of 1938 were of Japanese descent but born in the UW: Giro Kubo and Masso Yayoshi. Giro was teaching at Leigh University when the war started and continued there until he retired. Masso was born in the U.S. but returned to Japan when quite young and did not return until he came to the University. After graduating, he returned to Japan to live there. Soon after the occupation of Japan started, class member Harry Roller, a Naval officer, was in Japan and tried to find Masso. He was told that Masso had died in the American bombing. It seems possible that those who knew him thought that he might be considered a traitor because of his American birth and that it was better to say that he was killed.

About half of our civil engineering class served in the armed forces but none were killed. It would be odd if the only one who died in the war was killed by an American bomb.

Dwight Gowdey, ’38
Seattle

Colorado Transfer
I read “The Stolen Years” article in the latest Columns with much interest. It was especially interesting to read of the efforts of UW faculty attempts to prevent the mass evacuation and deportation of Nisei students.

I had close contact with Prof. Henry Tatsumi, who, like a few academics, was spared internment. I had enrolled in the Navy Japanese Language School at Univ. of Colorado (Boulder). Several of the teaching faculty were Japanese Americans. And Prof. Tatsumi was director of the teaching staff. He was a jovial leader of our student body at periodic assemblies in singing the school song (which he wrote).

Upon joining the UW faculty in the early 1950s, I was delighted to see that Prof. Tatsumi was again teaching Japanese at UW. We got together to reminisce about our days at the Language School in Boulder.

Prof. Emeritus Art Kruckenberg
Seattle

How Well the UW Treated Us
Your article “The Stolen Years” in the last Columns was truly appreciated. It brought back many memories—some sweet and some sad.

Many of the people mentioned were my friends—I felt that I should tell you of my experiences as a student nurse, studying at the UW. When the evacuation notice was going to take place, School of Nursing Dean Elizabeth Soule made arrangements to transfer three of the Japanese American students to the Univ. of Colorado School of Nursing in Denver. Three students plus Macako Takayoshi, R.N., the supervisor of the operating room at Harborview, were allowed to leave Seattle before other families were taken to the assembly center in Puyallup and later then to Minidoka, Idaho. The War Relocation Administration paid for our train fare to Denver. Three students—Hane Akiyama, Mary Hayachi and Mae Kashivagi Nishitani—were sent to Denver. We felt very fortunate to be able to continue our studies instead of going to camp.

All three of us completed our education. Mary and Jane graduating from Colorado with a B.S.N. When I graduated, since I was a year ahead of them, I was lacking enough Colorado credit hours. So after taking courses to gain resident credits, I enrolled in correspondent courses. Since my transfer of schools was not by choice, Colorado authorities petitioned that my degree should come from UW. … This made me so proud to receive my bachelor of science in nursing from the UW.

… The people in Denver accepted us with no prejudice and all of us got along nicely. I am now 86 years old, living with my son and his family in Lake Oswego. Ore. Two of my grandchildren are in college—one at the University of Oregon and one at USC. There are two more to go on to college.

I thought you should know how well the UW treated us.

Mae Nishitani, ’43, ’44
Lake Oswego, Ore.

 


Letters about “The Stolen Years, Part Two”


A Better World
The [internment] articles [“The Stolen Years,” Dec. 2004 and March 2005] are excellent and reveal many things that I was not aware of—especially the effort by the University to exempt Nisei students from the relocation and then to help them enroll at other universities. The “Letters to the Editor” (printed in the March issue) were understanding and favorable. It appears that students on campus at that time still have excellent memories and had close relationships with the Nisei.


Although the relocation years were “stolen” from us, I feel that all of us—friend or foe—faced the same predicament and I feel sad for those who did not survive. From my perspective, the relocation opened a new world to me, which I may not have experienced had it not occurred.

 

I returned from military service with a deep desire to complete my education and to assume my rightful place in society. I am proud of the way in which my fellow Nisei conducted themselves during these troubled times.

We live in a much better society today as a result of this experience.

Roy Inui, ’48
Sammamish

Editor’s Note: Inui was a UW student in 1942. With the help of UW officials and activist Floyd Schmoe, he avoided internment by transferring to Guilford College in North Carolina prior to the order to report to the camps. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

A Human Face on Tragedy
The March Columns arrived today. You have put such a human face on this. In describing the personal experiences of the students, some of their parents and certain of the staff, you’ve shown us so much more about these times and the nuances of the internments. This story you have put together needs a wider audience. People to whom I gave my copy of Columns and “The Stolen Years, Part One” were amazed to get the insights. They will feel even more informed by Part Two. … You have vastly exceeded my expectations with these two pieces. Congratulations.

Larry G. Nault, ’59
Basking Ridge, N.J.

We Did What We Had to Do to Win
As a conservative, I feel compelled to respond to the liberals wallowing in their anti-American mire. I know that liberals love to feel guilty about being wealthy Americans. I can accept that, even though I won’t feel guilty about it. I recognize that America is great and wealthy because of our liberty. It is no accident.

One of the key differences between liberals and conservatives is that liberals always put themselves ahead of their country and conservatives put their country ahead of themselves. Much of the information presented and implied was how much the Nisei students were required to personally sacrifice for their country. I find their sacrifices great and worth reporting and even honoring. While I appreciate their sacrifices, I don’t find the government guilty of any crimes against them. The government did what it had to do to win the war.

They weren’t the only ones who were required to sacrifice. First and foremost are the soldiers who risked and gave their lives (including soldiers of Japanese descent). Other regular citizens were required to ration gasoline, rubber, steel, etc. Speed limits were reduced to conserve gasoline. Contrary to information presented in Nancy Ann Holtz’s letter to the editor [“Letters,” March 2006], Americans of German and Italian descent were also sent to camps.

If I belonged to a group that had members who threatened the security of this country, I would willingly go to an “assembly center.” It seems like a logical sacrifice. It wouldn’t be enjoyable, but if it meant saving my country from destruction, I would rather spend some time in a camp than have my family beheaded for practicing a Christian religion. But then I’m conservative, and I put my country ahead of myself.

Japanese, Italians and Germans aren’t the only groups that have been singled out in relation to our nation’s security. Even currently, people with higher incomes are singled out to pay higher taxes. They haven’t committed any crimes any more than the Nisei students did.

The author, Columns Editor Tom Griffin, couldn’t get any of his interviewees to express any bitterness for staying in internment camps. It is possible that there is no bitterness. It is possible that they complied out of a sense of duty for their country. They thought of country before self. I am offended that Griffin implied bitterness where none was offered. I’m offended that Griffin is using the sacrifice of great Americans to further his liberal anti-American agenda.

Susan Smith Stephens wrote in her letter to the editor [“Letters,” March 2006]: “Perhaps if either President Bush or Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had been at the UW at that time, tens of thousands of young Iraqi citizens might still be alive.” Our troops are not in Iraq to kill but to protect Iraqi citizens. Perhaps if Saddam Hussein were still in power, he would have killed another 100,000 Iraqi citizens. Perhaps if the Islamic terrorists weren’t so busy in Iraq, they would be spreading mayhem and destruction in our country.

I appreciate the courage displayed by Gordon Hirabayashi to take on the U.S. government at the time of war to defend his own civil rights, to whose story half of the “The Stolen Years, Part Two” was dedicated. I honor even more the short paragraph dedicated to George Mukasa, who volunteered to join the U.S. Army, accompanying General Douglas MacArthur all the way to Japan. Now that’s real courage.

Chris Jolley, ’92
American Fork, Utah

Editor’s Note: Chris Jolley is in error when he states “Americans of German and Italian descent were also sent to camps.” German and Italian citizens were interned, not U.S. citizens of those nationalities except in a few rare incidents. In contrast, more than 70,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were sent to the camps in 1942.

Sober Truths and Pabulum
I would like to thank letter writer Chris Jolley for his cogent and concise commentary in the June edition of Columns (“We Did What We Had to Do to Win”). He made me proud to be a UW alumnus.

I learned that, as a liberal, I put myself ahead of my country. I also learned that there is no subject—even a sober and thoughtful examination of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II—that cannot be enhanced by the inclusion of standard right-wing pabulum, even if such references lack relevance to the purported topic. I was reminded that it is “anti-American” to question our government, that it would be a “logical sacrifice” for Christians to go to an “assembly center” to avoid beheadings for practicing their religion and that high-income Americans are “singled out to pay higher taxes” in the interest of national security.

Additionally, I’m guessing the Japanese Americans who were relocated to internment camps will be buoyed by Jolley’s assertion that “other regular citizens” also were asked to sacrifice during the war effort. Reduced speed limits? Rations on gasoline, rubber and steel? Oh, such deprivation!

Mark Wardlaw, ’81
Santa Rosa, Calif.

Patriotic Threat?
Excoriating “anti-American” liberals for their reluctance to sacrifice for their country, self-styled “conservative” Chris Jolley proclaims that he would be willing to be interned—like Japanese-Americans were during World War II—if he “belonged to a group that had members who threatened the security of this country.” The irony of this hollow declaration is that many clear-thinking conservatives and liberals alike believe that pseudo patriots like Jolley do belong to such a group.

John Dumas, ’66
Gresham, Ore.

Humor or Non-Sequitur?
“The Stolen Years” is a job well done! Both issues [now on the Web] are available to those who want to know about this shameful period of American history. I fear that we are traveling this xenophobic road again.

Griffin’s historical account has emotional impact for me. While growing up I remember my parents speaking with quiet anger as they recalled how they were forced to leave behind their home and grocery store with only the personal items that could be carried in two suitcases. They were taken to the “assembly center” at the Puyallup Fair Grounds and then to Minidoka, Idaho. As hard as it was living within barbed wire, starting over again after the war was tough for them too.

Regarding the letter from Chris Jolley, his tangential discussion of liberals and conservatives came off as non-sequiturs. Or, did he attempt humor by reversing his definitions? Hmmm…

Jean Miyake, ’64
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Internment, Income Taxes, Insults
Chris Jolley’s letter (“We Did What We Had to Do to Win”) ignores historical fact and liberties that are the foundation of the Constitution. The letter’s contention that “liberals always put themselves ahead of their country and conservatives put their country ahead of themselves” is not borne out by the resumes of the current Republicans in power: Dick Cheney’s numerous draft deferments and George Bush’s failure to complete his National Guard service during the Vietnam era are matters of public record. Their smearing of John Kerry’s war record during the campaign was beyond belief. Japanese Americans were forced to give up their livelihoods and property while being interned; comparing their plight with “people with higher incomes...singled out to pay higher taxes” is an insult.

Nancy Anderson, ’69
Seattle

Liberty at Home and Abroad
I was deeply offended by the letter “We Did What We Had to Do to Win” in the June issue. I saw nothing liberal or conservative in the discussion about the morality of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and I thought that both articles were interesting and informative. From my perspective, the decision to intern a segment of the population based on their ancestry and a belief that they might pose a risk to the national security was nothing more than racism. Why else were German Americans, Italian Americans and others allowed to remain free, despite the fact that we were at war with their countries of origin?

It isn’t a question of liberal guilt or anti-Americanism; I believe that only a society that examines its past actions and admits its mistakes can remain free and continue to move towards the ideals upon which it was founded. The simple-minded rhetoric of “liberals always put themselves ahead of their country and conservatives put their country ahead of themselves” misses the point entirely, while also being completely wrong. While there are obviously many disagreements between the two extremes in American politics, I hope and believe that reasonable people across the political spectrum agree that racism is fundamentally inconsistent with the American ideal.

Further, I believe that doing “whatever we have to do to win” is also fundamentally inconsistent with the American ideal. If we violate our fundamental values of individual liberty, equal protection, due process and so on, we risk winning the battle but losing the war. I do not believe that the internment contributed in any meaningful way to the allied victory in World War II, but, even if it had been central to our winning, it is at least debatable whether the cost of such a violation of our values and ideals would have been worth it. How can we fight for the cause of liberty abroad as we simultaneously diminish liberty at home?

Finally, I doubt whether the writer has the strength to put his convictions into action, since he didn’t appear to be writing from active military duty in Iraq or Afghanistan—is there some reason he is not putting his country first right now? I can tell you what my very liberal father-in-law would say about it: “If he thinks the war is a good idea, why doesn’t he volunteer to go fight it?” By the way, my father-in-law enlisted to fight in World War II, despite being eligible for exemption as the youngest of four sons whose brothers were already fighting.

Dan Jolivet,’82, ’83
Alpharetta, Ga.

Prejudice, Fear, Anger, Stupidity and Hysteria
I am responding to the letter “We Did What We Had to Do to Win.” In light of what we now know concerning acts of terror committed by Al-Qaeda, the Islamic extremist organization, I would like Mr. Jolley, or anyone else for that matter, to answer all of the who, what, where, when, how and why questions (the discovery phase) that arise in connection with the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were transported to relocation camps because they were potential subversives or terrorists who might engage in sabotage against the United States of America.

Let us assume that the Japanese government planted sleeper cells in the United States before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Who were the leaders of the organization in Japan that directed these terrorist activities? What was the name of the organization? Where were the terrorist training camps located in Japan? How did the leaders in Japan communicate with Japanese American support and operations agents in the United States? What intelligence was gathered about potential targets in the United States by these sleeper cells? What supplies and equipment, like explosives, were purchased by Japanese American terrorists inside the United States? What practice sessions were held in the United States to perfect the terrorist attacks and where and when did the practice sessions occur? What role did Japanese American children play in these terrorist activities?

Now, let us assume that the Japanese government did not plant sleeper cells in the United States. Let us assume that the Japanese Americans themselves spontaneously created a terrorist organization after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Who were the leaders of the organization in the United States that directed these terrorist activities and where was their headquarters? What was the name of the organization? What was the source of their funding? Where were the Japanese American terrorist training camps located in the United States? How did the leaders in the United States communicate with Japanese American support and operations agents throughout the West Coast? What intelligence was gathered about potential targets in the United States by Japanese Americans? What supplies and equipment, like explosives, were purchased by Japanese American terrorists inside the United States? What practice sessions were held in the United States to perfect the terrorist attacks and where and when did the practice sessions occur? What role did Japanese American children play in these terrorist activities?

Are there any records in the files of the local police, the state patrol, the F.B.I. or American military intelligence groups that contain any facts or evidence that address these questions?

I am 67 years old and I have never read any newspaper or magazine article, never seen any television show, never watched any documentary film, and never spoken to any person in the United States that reported that there were facts or evidence of Japanese American terrorist activities in the United States. Then why were Japanese American men, women and children ordered to go to relocation camps?

They were sent to relocation camps because of prejudice, discrimination, ignorance, fear, anger, stupidity and hysteria.

I am currently reading Imperfect Justice—Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II by Stuart E. Eisenstat. This book deals with the subject of restitution. In the forward, Elie Wiesel writes: “Those books I purchased with my pocket money in my childhood are lying in dust. Who can give them back to me? Who will give me back the tephilin of my father and grandfather? I remember a little girl, a beautiful innocent little girl with golden hair and blue eyes, who had taken her most cherished possession with her, a beautiful scarf she had received as a Passover gift. Are there enough funds in the world to compensate her brother for that stolen scarf?”

For Japanese Americans there is unfinished business from World War II in the United States. Who, when, where, what, why, and how will that business be finished?

Paul Nutkowitz, ’67
Lawrenceville, N.J. 

Chris Jolley reponds:
I feel it is my duty to respond to all the attacks aimed at me in the last issue of Columns.

In response to Mark Wardlaw, my argument that liberals put themselves ahead of their country is relevant to the topic. I brought up the topic, so I would know if it was relevant. It was not only relevant, but it was the very topic itself. Allow me to repeat myself in simpler English. Ninety percent of the series “The Stolen Years” focused on how one Japanese American fought his way to the Supreme Court for his personal rights at the time of war. Among the remaining 10 percent, the series mentioned in a small paragraph a real hero who volunteered in the US military and worked with General MacArthur in the Pacific theater as an interpreter. I argued that more attention should have been given to the soldier than the civil rights defender. I would have loved to have read more about that story.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear when I wrote “other regular citizens.” It seems that Mark Wardlaw understood that phrase as people other than Japanese American citizens. I meant other regular citizens as opposed to citizens in the military. Military personnel make an oath above that of “regular citizens,” therefore they are asked to sacrifice more on behalf of their country than “regular citizens” are asked to sacrifice. My apologies.

I never said the sacrifices of the general American citizenry equaled the sacrifices of the interned citizenry. If you are thinking the general American citizenry sacrificed then like we are now, you are greatly mistaken. The sacrifice of the general American citizenry now during this war is microscopic compared to that during World War II.

I have to give kudos to John Dumas who made a clever joke at my expense. I hope that he would not make a practice of making jokes at other people’s expenses. However, I don’t hold any hard feelings against him.

Nancy Anderson argued that “Republicans in power” such as Cheney and Bush do not support my argument that “liberals always put themselves ahead of their country and conservatives put their country ahead of themselves.” I would think that Bush and Cheney would have a hard time proving in court that they are conservative. I live in arguably the most conservative state in the nation and the most conservative county in that state: I know a conservative when I see one. The “W” in George W. Bush is really an upside down “M” for moderate.

How many times do we have to say that German and Italian Americans were also interned? At least one more time for Dan Jolivet. Please don’t try to rewrite history, Mr. Jolivet. I wonder if interned German and Italian Americans are offended that you try to erase the sacrifices they made for their country? I agree with Mr. Jolivet that interning a people based on race is racism. Doing anything based on race is racism—by definition. I agree with him that “racism is fundamentally inconsistent with the American ideal.”  “The Stolen Years” didn’t directly address the morality of the issue, as Mr. Jolivet claims. Since he brought it up, let me say that we could debate the morality of interning American citizens for 50 years (as I believe we have) and not come to a consensus. One way we will know for sure if something is moral or not, is to ask God Himself. (I had to say that just to stir up the liberal moral relativists in the readership.)

Paul Nutkowitz said he had never witnessed any newspaper, magazine, television, film, or person that claimed Japanese Americans had exercised any act of insurgency. He said “terrorist activities”, but I know what he meant. It took me about 10 minutes to find it on the internet. Maybe Mr. Nutkowitz ought to try that medium. Try wikipedia.org under “Japanese American internment.” While you are in wikipedia.org, look up German and Italian internments.

Just for the record, I’ve softened my position. After careful thought, I believe that if someone swears allegiance to this nation, then that person should be trusted. All naturalized citizens swear allegiance to the United States of America, therefore all American citizens should be on equal grounds no matter who the enemy is. I’m not too proud to admit I was wrong.

Chris Jolley, ’92
American Fork, Utah

Relocation or Internment?
I was more than mildly disappointed in the shallowness of your research in “The Stolen Years” series. The “litmus test” for writing on this subject is whether the author knows the difference between internment camps and relocation camps and there is a world of difference between them. Apparently you don’t pass.

The principle of “internment” is a centuries-old doctrine going back, at least, to the Revolutionary War and probably earlier. The people who were sent to internment camps had to meet two criteria: be an alien (non-citizen) and be considered subversive. The usual practice was to “intern” them until the end of hostilities and then deport them. In the case of World War II, there were only four internment camps (Missoula, Mont.; Bismarck, N.D.; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Crystal City, Texas). German, Italian and Japanese “internees” were, indeed, “incarcerated” in those camps. Crystal City was the only camp that housed whole, alien families.

The relocation camp concept did originate with the DeWitt Proclamation and, as Carl Kostol pointed out [“Letters,” March 2006], only applied to Japanese residents west of Highway 97 (in Washington and Oregon). The “restricted zone” also included the whole state of California and the southern portion of Arizona. If the residents (both non-subversive Issei aliens and Nisei citizens) in the restricted zone chose not to relocate voluntarily, they were forced to move to relocation camps (10 total). The biggest difference from the internment camps was they could leave the camp anytime they wanted as long as they had a sponsor (family member or friend) who would confirm that they were not relocating back inside the restricted zone. Read Monica Itoi Sone’s Nisei Daughter for an account of a Seattle Nisei girl who did exactly that, leaving the Minidoka Relocation Camp to go back to the Midwest and finish up her schooling.

Burt Pierard,’68
Richland

Editor’s Note: As noted in “Prelude” in the Dec. 2005 Columns, the use of the terms “internment” and “imprisonment” to describe the treatment of Japanese Americans follows mainstream historical scholarship. The “relocation camps” were surrounded by barbed wire and had guards in watchtowers with rifles. Japanese Americans could not leave without a pass, and if they wanted to move permanently out of the camps, they had to find a sponsor on the outside and pass a security screening that could take months to complete.

Learning About the Internment
I have just finished reading Part Two of “The Stolen Years,” and want to tell you how much I appreciated these articles. I started at the UW in the fall of 1950. I had Professor Gordon Hirabayashi for Sociology 101, and it was then that I learned of the wartime evacuation/relocation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. (I had been a child in New York state at the time.) I had a Japanese American friend in high school in Seattle in the late ’40s whose family was living on Beacon Hill, yet I had never heard a word from any of them about what had happened to them during the war years.

I had Professor Frank Miyamoto for classes, and then worked for him as a reader (grading exams) and research assistant when I was a graduate student. He is a man of such dignity and integrity! I adored him. I didn't know he had been teaching at the UW at the time of the internment.

I was active in the student YM-YWCA in the early ’50s and also developed Quaker connections about that time. If the UW gave me my formal education, it was at the student Y that I developed my spiritual, social, political and international awareness. It is not surprising that Gordon Hirabayashi was active at the Y, or that staff and students there, along with Quakers and other socially concerned members of the community, supported him in his standing for, and suffering from, his principles.

It is easy to look back and say how awful something was. It is harder to see it at the time and to try to do something about it. In any case, thank you for bringing to the present those people and activities that were such a part of my formative years.

Elizabeth Jallie Bagshaw, ’53, ’76
Seattle

Bad, One-Sided Journalism
Your articles on the wartime internment of some Japanese are bad, one-sided journalism by people who obviously weren’t there and have no idea what the situation really was. Please read more of the whole story. See my article “Wartime Internment.”

Robert E. Hannay, ’47
Phoenix

A Special Place in Our Hearts
Thank you for your great article on Gordon Hirabayashi. Frank Walters was my grandfather; unfortunately he passed away in the mid-1970s and did not see the result of his work on this case. [Walters was a local Seattle attorney who argued for Hirabayashi’s civil rights all the way to the Supreme Court.]

My grandmother, Ruth Walters, lived into her late 90s and was delighted with the news of Gordon’s eventual court victories. [In 1987, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government had withheld information from the courts in Hirabayashi’s original legal challenge during the war.] She said Gordon always had a special place in her heart for what he went through in all of this.

Mike Wilson,’76
Yakima

Liberties and Threats
Thank you for your two-part article about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. I read the letters from readers with great interest, particularly the sentence “Let us hope that the government never again makes the same mistake of stripping its citizens of their civil liberties.” I believe our government is doing precisely that, with the so-called “Patriot Act,” with unauthorized spying on U.S. citizens, and other activities. As in the 1940s, the public has accepted government claims that threats to our way of life justify giving up civil liberties.

Brian K. Davis, ’70
Carmichael, Calif.

When Stalin ‘Relocated’ Germans
I did not know of the forced relocation of our ethnic Japanese Americans until my UW years in the ’50s. When some of my schoolmates “disappeared,” I thought they had simply moved away. When they “reappeared” a few years later, I was happy to see them again ... no questions asked, no explanations offered. When finally learning of this total injustice and discussing it with my parents, I learned that most of my extended family also had suffered from such treatment not in America but in Russia. My maternal and paternal grandparents [who were ethnic Germans] had left their homes along the Volga River near Saratov at the turn of the 20th century. The families left behind were forced from their homes in the fall of 1941 and sent to work camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan. They were herded into cattle cars locked from the outside. The cars were, in many cases, sidetracked for days for military traffic. Many died en route to the camps. Their bodies were strewn along the tracks in shallow graves and if the ground was frozen, no graves were dug. Upon arrival at the “relocation centers” families were split up. Able-bodied men and older teens (those that had not yet been sent to war) were sent to the mines, while the women were sent to logging camps to cut trees in waist-deep snow. Babies once weaned were left in the unheated cabins or, if lucky, were sent to live with Russian foster families. Things became better for my people after Stalin died in 1953. Shortly after, these Volga Germans were freed from the camps—once they signed papers that they would never return to their home region. It took years for families to reunite, and many never were. My family lost all contact with those in Russia until after perestroika in the late ’80s. The stories of those that survived bring one to tears.

David Hartmann, ’54
Penryn, Calif.


Editor’s Note:
Germans and Italians interned in the U.S. during World War II were citizens of those countries. In contrast, about 70,000 of the 120,000 Japanese interned during World War II were citizens of the United States, including all 440 UW students of Japanese ancestry who were forced to leave the UW in May 1942.

Too Quick to Judge

I wouldn’t be so quick to judge American decision makers in the decision to intern Japanese Americans. This quick judgment seems like a knee-jerk reaction to the arguments raised by Chris Jolley in his letter to the editor with regard to “The Stolen Years” article. It is often too easy to criticize these leaders for decisions which seem to lack merit in hindsight. The question raised by Dan Jolivet, “Why else were German Americans, Italian Americans and others allowed to remain free...” is very pertinent to today as well. I am not a history buff so call me ignorant if you must but I think that the Japanese fighters were a very different breed from the German and Italian fighters. This difference I believe also was due to cultural differences. The Japanese fighters were willing on many occasions to sacrifice themselves in a way that was very surprising to Americans. I speak of the Kamikaze fighter. Today we find that there are fanatic religious opinions that seem to motivate similar actions. This I think causes a higher decree of fear on the part of Americans. Am I wrong here? These are complex issues now and in the past. I say, let’s learn from the past but withhold judgment. Please don’t characterize my ideas as ‘pabulum’ if you disagree with them, just tell me where you think I have erred in judgment.

William Andersen, ’99
Milton Vt.

Crying Racism
Just because it is not readily found in the mainstream media does not mean it did not happen. Dan Jolivet, in the September 2006 issue, cries racism before the facts are fully known. This is a common tactic of those who look for it in every corner of America. Thousands of Italian and German immigrants residing legally in this country were interned during World War II. Granted, it was not to the degree and extent of the Japanese living here, but they too lost years of their lives and property for which they were never remunerated. Racism is inconsistent with the American ideal, but crying racism before all of the facts are known cheapens the meaning of the word and degrades the argument.

Joseph Pellicano, ’73
Sammamish

A Knee-Jerk Reaction
Judging the past can be a knee-jerk reaction. I wouldn’t be so quick to judge American decision makers in the decision to intern Japanese Americans. This quick judgment seems like a knee-jerk reaction to the arguments raised by Chris Jolley in his editorial with regard to “The Stolen Years” articles [Dec. 2005 and March 2006]. It is often too easy to criticize these leaders for decisions which seem to lack merit in hindsight. The question raised by Dan Jolivet, “Why else were German Americans, Italian Americans and others allowed to remain free?” is very pertinent to today as well. I am not a history buff so call me ignorant if you must but I think that the Japanese fighters were a very different breed from the German and Italian fighters. This difference I believe also was due to cultural differences. The Japanese fighters were willing on many occasions to sacrifice themselves in a way that was very surprising to Americans. I speak of the Kamikaze fighter. Today we find that there are fanatic religious opinions that seem to motivate similar actions. This I think causes a higher decree of fear on the part of Americans. Am I wrong here? These are complex issues now and in the past. I say lets learn from the past but withhold judgment. Please don’t characterize my ideas as ‘pabulum’ if you disagree with them, just tell me where you think I have erred in judgment.

William Andersen, ’99
Milton, Vt.

No Home in Political History
In the letters appearing in the Sept. 2006 issue, reader Paul Nutkowitz declares he never read or heard of any “facts or evidence of Japanese American terrorist activities in the United States.” Perhaps he would be satisfied with a personal anecdote.

My father grew up in Bellingham. In 1941 he was 17 and for years had gone to school with the son of a local barber, who was Japanese. The family was well regarded. However, just prior to U.S. entry into the war, the father was arrested by the FBI for espionage. It turned out he was a lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Bellingham was an excellent location from which to collect intelligence on naval traffic into and out of Puget Sound. My father joined the Navy in the fall and never learned what happened to the barber or his family. Espionage does not sound as alarming as terrorism, but espionage is always the equivalent of sabotage, so far as it relates to the conduct of war. I regret I can add not further detail, my father having passed away years ago.

In the same issue, reader Dan Jolivet asks rhetorically why German and Italian Americans were allowed to remain free during World War II. He might recall that German Americans had quite vicious suspicion thrust upon them during World War I. Today, it is typical for any mention of German descent to include a reference to the Nazi party. As one who is a quarter German from first-generation immigrants, I am quite conscious of this.

In other letters, there was lively expression of umbrage by liberals against the rationale for internment. I find this ironic, in consideration of the fact that the program was initiated and executed by the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and administered by (later Supreme Court Justice) Earl Warren. If these men are not heroes of liberals, they have no home in political history.

Michael J. Dunn, ’72, ’73, ’74
Federal Way

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