ted States Naval facility at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. 19 ships were sunk, 2,335 servicemen lost their lives, and, afterwards, the United States declared war on
Japan, and her allies Germany and Italy. However, another great loss occurred on United States soil–the
imprisonment of 120,000 people, 2/3 of whom were United States citizens.
The Japanese Internment, the
name of this mistake, was illegal, unconstitutional, and an act of nothing more than severe prejudice and
Shiro’s parents, Hachizo and Tsuru Nomora, were Issei, people of Japan who immigrated to America to
better their lives. The Namoras couldn’t become US citizens because the Naturalization Act of 1790 didn’t
include Asians. The children of the Issei were called Neisi, who were automatically US citizens because
they were born here.
In 1905, they moved to Berkeley, CA. Hachizo grew fruits and vegetables on a
leased farm. He would sell his crop to local stores for low prices. The Japanese were talented at farming
and whites complained about how hard it was to compete.
The San Francisco Chronicle headlined “Brown
Artisans steal Brains of Whites, The Yellow Peril-How the Japanese crowd out the White Race.” In
October 1906, the San Francisco board of education segregated 93 Japanese kids in Chinatown.The Alien
Land Law of 1923 was passed, banning all purchase of land by Issei, and allowed them to rent for only 3
years.The Immigration Act of 1924 ended all immigration of !
By now the Nomoras established a successful farm, and a family. Tsuru gave berth to Shuigeru
and Sadae. In 1923, Berkeley had a large fire and the Nomoras decided to move to Keystone, a suburb of
Los Angeles. Around this time, Shiro was born.
At Banning High School, Shiro (who shortened his name
to “Shi”) played baseball, football, and track. Shi recalls, “I was a girl chaser, all I thought about was girls
and sports.” In 1940, he met Emiko (who adopted the name Amy) Hattori. Shi wanted to propose to her at
the end of the school year, but was hit in the head by a shot-put and spent 6 months in a hospital.
of 1941, Shi and Amy went to the annual Neisi Festival. At the festival, a singer on stage caught Shi’s
eyes. Four months later Pearl Harbor was bombed. Shi’s hopes of meeting the singer, marrying Amy, or
finishing high school were put on hold.
December 6, 1941, Shi was driving Amy home when he was hit from behind. After multiple victories in
the pacific, military officials were worried that if the Japanese reached the West Coast, Issei and Neisi
would aid them. Lt. General DeWitt was very influential in the Japanese-evacuation movement.
According to the Roberts report, Hawaiian–Japanese farmers were making arrows on their land pointing to
Pearl Harbor. In Seattle, there were rumors of a “flaming arrow” (workers burning brush) pointing towards
the city. Japanese farmers in California used paper to protect crops from frost. There were rumors of white
cloth covering crops pointing to a nearby airplane plant.
Students studied German at the University of
California to meet the Foreign Language requirement. They must have been spies. In January of 1942 the
FBI and the FCC found no evidence of sabotage. However DeWitt and a variety of newspapers stated that
if no evidence was found, that proved the Japanese real!
ly were saboteurs.
Time and Look Magazines published articles on how to tell “Japs” from your friends.
In LA times it read “A viper is a viper wherever the egg is hatched” The Nisei became desperate and
tried to shed as much of their heritage as possible. Ceramics that were family heirlooms were dumped in
the streets. Priceless diaries, photos, letters, and other written treasures that happened to be written in
Japanese were burned.
Mary Kageyana remembers burning her mother’s sheet music, “We had to do it
because they would not know what it said. They might have thought it was code or something.” By
February 9, DeWitt banned Japanese from 133 “strategic areas” in California. By mid February, the
California coast had been dubbed “Restricted Area Number 1.
” DeWitt suggested Japanese voluntarily
move inland. 4,000 did, and weeks later DeWitt prohibited Japanese from leaving the West Coast. On
February 13, 1942, DeWitt recommended the evacuation of all Japanese form t!
he West Coast. “A Jap is a Jap,” said DeWitt.
“It makes no difference if he’s an American.” With no
knowledge of Japanese-Americans living in America, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt bought into the
claims made by the military, media, and California Congressmen, and signed Executive Order 9066,
granting military authority over the evacuation of any person deemed an enemy of the United States. On
March 2, DeWitt announced the evacuation of all Japanese-Americans, regardless of citizenship.
Amid the growing hate and violence, Shi’s real white friends remained at his side.
The Japanese were
refused admittance to theaters, skate rinks, and public parks. Some were fired from jobs they had been
working at for 30 years. With little time before they had to evacuate, the Japanese community was in
panic. Japanese-owned stores sold their produce at very low prices and whites rushed to Japanese
neighborhoods for good buys.
Shi recalls, “They swarmed like locusts through Japanese areas, cheating,
stealing, and threatening to buy belongings for almost nothing.” New washers went for $5. A 26-room
hotel was sold for $500, the Ruth Hotel worth $6000 was sold for $600. Shi and his family moved to his
Aunt’s house in Los Angeles.
22 of the Nomora clan stayed there for 2 weeks. They then were ordered to
pack their toiletries and clothing, go to a church, board a bus that would take them to a train, board the
train, and settle in the Manzanar Relocation Center.
Shi’s family arrived at Manzanar on April 25, 1942. Temperatures reached 115 degrees.
one of many of these “relocation centers.” Many of the internees, such as Amy, had not even settled at one
of the permanent relocation centers, but at a makeshift assembly center on the Santa Anita racetrack. In
November 1942, Neisi kids were arrested for sledding in the Heart Mountain camp. An old man was shot
for being to close to the fence at the Topaz camp.
Manzanar was a facility made for single men but housed
1000 men, women, and children. 8 towers with machine guns surrounded the camp to make sure every
inch of the camp was not too far from a bullet. Each person was issued a cot, a bag stuffed with straw for a
mattress, and a blanket. Each family was issued a barrack according to size.
Childless couples slept in an
open barrack with sheets as the only partitions that separated them from neighbors. The Nomora clan was
issued 3 barracks. Toilets had no partitions !
and were back to back. Shi thought this was one of the worst and humiliating parts of the internment.
From Santa Anita, Amy sent Shi a letter and a green sweater. Some packages were lost when police
inspected the mail. Shi received word she was transferred to Camp Amache. Families were paid only
50 per month, so men took jobs. Unskilled labor paid $8. Skilled, $12, and $16 for professionals like
doctors. In July an Issei who didn’t understand the order to stop was killed for gathering lumber near an
area still under construction.
In August, the Department of Labor sent an urgent message stating that
they needed agriculture work in Montana, Utah and Idaho, and Colorado. Shi thought he could see Amy
this way. Manzanar sent 900 Nisei, including Shi.
Shi’s crew went to Great Falls, MO.
The farmer Shi’s crew was assigned to already hired someone else.
Shi’s crew ended up with A.T. Tjaden.
They climbed into his truck and rode to Conrad. The next morning,
Shi and his crew received a short lesson on beet cutting from Mr. Tjaden. The first day of beet topping was
the same as every day for the next six weeks.
They had Saturdays off and usually went into Conrad to hang
out, free to roam the city without being guarded. Shi made less than $2 a day “But we were free,” Shi said,
“and that was worth more than any amount of money.” However deep down, Shi was reminded he really
was not free when he faced discrimination in town. After six weeks, Tjaden’s farm was ruined by snow.
Mr. Tjaden begged Shi to stay, but Shi said he needed to get to Amy. Shi went back to Manzanar.
Things changed in Manzanar.
250 students were permitted to leave and go to universities outside RA#1.
Army intelligence was recruiting and sending Neisi to special schools to learn Japanese customs and
language, while their own government considered them not Americans but Japanese and therefore
dangerous! 3,700 Neisi graduated and were used as America’s secret weapons, interpreting documents,
scouting, eavesdropping on Japanese conversations beyond enemy lines to perhaps learning of impending
attacks. The War Department dropped the ban on Japanese in the military. They formed the 422nd
Regimental Combat Team, which was made up of Neisi.
The 422nd suffered the most casualties, 9486
dead and wounded. It earned 7 Presidential Unit Citations, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560
Silver stars. The men of the all-Neisi 100th earned over 1,000 Purple Hearts. After the Battle of Midway,
the internment seemed harder to justify because the Japanese were probably not going !
to invade the West Coast now.
The War Relocation Program started a program not well planned called
“sorting out,” in which they determined loyalty according to a yes or no questionnaire. If they passed, the
internees were given the option to resettle in one of 42 cities away from Restricted Area Number One. If
you answered “no” to any question you were labeled disloyal to the United States and had to stay in the
camps. Question 27 read, “Are you willing to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States, in combat
duty, wherever ordered?” Question 28 said, “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the USA and
forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government,
power or organization?” Answering yes to #27 meant that they were subject to being drafted, and Issei
were confused with #28 because if they could not become US citizens and the denounced their Japanese
allegiance, the would not have a country.
The Neisi also rese!
nted taking an extra pledge-after being denied their rights. All of the Nomoras answered yes-yes but not
without resenting it. Of the 75,000 who answered, only 8,500 answered no-no and 5,700 were Neisi. The
no-nos were sent to the harshest of the camps, Tule Lake.
Shi was granted clearance on May 14, 1943.
“Now what was I going to do?” he wondered. “I had been drafted, but my medical records from the
shot-put accident made me ineligible to serve. When I notified Amy of my clearance, she immediately
requested permission for my admission to AmacheI felt it would never work out.
But seeing other people
leaving Manzanar to be reunited with their loved ones made me realize that my first duty was to Amy.”
Shi left for Colorado in June 1943 with a diamond engagement ring paid for by his savings and a lone by
his father. Shi entered the Amache camp, and the guards failed to find the ring he carried through in his
mouth. Shi said, “I told her I loved her and I proposed marriage, but she said she was having too much fun
playing the field and she said no.
With tears in my eyes, I threw the ring in the desert and said goodbye.”
Shi reenlisted in the furlough program and worked at an icehouse. In August 1943, Shi returned to
Manzanar and worked as a sportswriter on the Manzanar Free Press, and worked with Dr. Robert Emerson,
who was experimenting with new ways of making rubber.
Shi’s final months in the camp were spent
playing sports. Then one day strolling with his friends, he heard a beautiful voice that belonged to the
person he heard at the Nisei Festival two years ago. It belonged to Mary Kageyama. They fell in love and
in February of 1945, Shi proposed marriage and Mary !
By 1944 there was no longer a military necessity for internment. On December 17, 1944, President
Roosevelt rescinded DeWitt’s mass exclusion order. In January of 1945, the War Relocation Authority
announced that the camps would be closed by the end of the year. The internment was over.
thank you or apology, or compensation for the losses, the internees had to once again face a hostile country.
Anti-Japanese organizations sprouted like No Japs Inc. in San Diego. One of the saddest accounts of
postwar treatment was from Senator Daniel Inouye.
He was a captain in the army, and had recently been
released from a hospital recovering from war wounds. He decided to get a haircut. “‘Are you Chinese?’ the
man said to me. I looked past him at the three empty chairs.
The other two barbers watching us closely.
‘I’m an American,’ I said. ‘Are you Chinese?’ ‘I think you know where my father was born. My father was
born in Japan.
I’m an American.’ Deep in my gut I knew!
what was coming. ‘Don’t give me that American stuff’ he said swiftly. ‘You’re a Jap and we don’t cut Jap
‘ I wanted to hit him There I stood, in full uniform, the new captain’s bars on my shoulder, four rows
of ribbons on my chest, the combat infantry badge, the distinguished unit citations-and a hook where my
hand should be. And he didn’t cut Jap hair. To think that I had gone through the war to save his skin-and
he didn’t cut Jap hair.” A post war survey showed 80% of the privately stored goods by the Japanese were
rifled, stolen, or sold.
One survey placed the amount losses and damage from 1942-45 by the Japanese-
Americans at $6.2 billion in current dollars. In 1980 Congress started a committee to investigate Executive
Order 9066, and the committee found no moral or legal basis for the internment. In 1987 the Supreme
Court declared the internment unconstitutional.
In 1947 Amy married Tatsumi Mizutani. She became a bilingual teacher for the Cypress school district.
She and Tat have 5 kids and 5 grandchildren. Shi married Mary in June of 1945.
Shi successfully ran his
own fish market and grocery store until 1986, when he retired. Shi and Mary have 5 kids and 11
grandchildren. In 1954, Hachizo became a naturalized citizen. In October 1990, Shi received $20,000 and
a letter of apology from President Bush stating: “A monetary sum and words alone cannot restore the lost
years or erase the painful memories; neither can they fully convey our Nation’s resolve to rectify injustice
and to uphold the rights of individuals.
We can never fully right the wrongs of the past. But we can take a
clear stand for justice and recognize that serious injustices were done to Japanese Americans during World
The Japanese Internment, the name of this mistake, was illegal, unconstitutional, and an act of nothing
more than severe prejudice and paranoia. Among the many rights that were broken include: the right to a
trial, the right to have the assistance of legal council, and the right to an impartial jury.
also states that no state shall “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” In
other words the internees were arrested and imprisoned without due process. From his retirement home in
Garden Grove, CA, Shi said, “One of the greatest things about America is that it admits it’s mistakesthis
is what America is all about; tolerating different cultures, accepting people who look different. America is
a nation of immigrants from all over the world, and they have made America the greatest nation in the
When anyone sees a person of Japanese ancestry living in the United States they should think
‘American’ and only afterward ‘Japan!
ese’. That is the American way.”