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75 years later, Japanese-American man recalls bitter internment in U.S.

53 Comments
By EMILY WANG

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“Almost 70, 80 years since I knew America then, the same thing, discrimination, (is happening) now” against minorities, he said. It “never improves, this problem.”

I think things have improved, but not enough. Americans are also struggling with lots of problems that are unrelated to minorities. (Although they have plenty of social side-effects.) Half a century of the Cold War bankrupted both the Soviet Union and the U.S., as taxpayers' earnings were squeezed to fill the coffers of the military-industrial complex.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

" All is fair in love and WAR ". Bad experience in a war environment is not acceptable but understandable , emotions do over-ride reason at times. What is unforgivable is a situation where/ when a country willfully arms itself for the express purpose of invading others with whom they've previously had peaceful co-existence. I have no pity for such should they get a black eye from such forages.

The discrimination in the US ? It's BAD in every way , ergo the discrimination and persecution of foreigners here in Japan.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

The internment of Japanese Americans is a disgrace. But we have to remember that there were thousands of Japanese Americans who took up arms to defend America. I respect his story but it’s hard to feel sorry for him. What the Japanese did was to human life was way worse than what the Americans.

9 ( +22 / -13 )

I am not surprised at all the first few comments show zero situational awareness of this man's story and its background, and I would not be surprised at all if we see more of the same.

Just for people's clarification, the man in this article is Japanese American.

He was born in Los Angeles, California, and was unfairly uprooted (along with many other thousands) and put in American internment camps due to his ethnic background. He has every right to be bitter about losing everything he owned and put in camps (it is well documented that one of the major motivation for the relocation orders of West Coast Japanese Americans during WW2 was due to racism; many farmers and locals resented their presence).

Despite all of this, Japanese Americans proved their loyalty and bravery on the battlefields during World War 2, serving with distinction and valor in both the European and Pacific theaters (the work of the Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service was credited with shortening the war in the Pacific by several years).

His story has absolutely nothing to do at all with Imperial Japan and their war machine during World War 2, his is a uniquely American story, so please stop the ignorance with statements about "Japanese trying to show themselves as victims."

-5 ( +19 / -24 )

Almost everybody involved in war, and on both sides, are victims of it. Their experiences are as meaningful and important as anybody else and deserve to be told and listened to. The only guaranteed winners in wars are rich capitalist arms manufacturers and they would love to silence all the victims of wars. Articles like this help people remember the victims of war and the horrors people faced. In that respect it's an interesting article and it's good to hear about this man's experiences.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

Japanese communities in Honolulu and Malaya, to name just two places, had been infiltrated by Japanese spies in the lead-up to the war. So the US, Canada and Britain were justified in trying to keep a close eye on the communities after the war started. Internment and displacement were too harsh. They should have posted small garrisons of National Guard troops in the communities instead.

4 ( +16 / -12 )

Internment camps were a mistake in the US and Canada. They were citizen of these countries and merited the same level of civil/human rights as other citizens. They should've been surveilled to see which ones if any supported Japan over the Allies. Tamura was clearly patriotic towards Japan not the US. even though he was a US citizen. Hard to have much sympathy for him considering the way the Japanese brutally treated POWs. He made a choice. Oh and racism also exists in Japan.

14 ( +21 / -7 )

As some people continue to struggle with this simple concept, let me make it easier for them.

If this was a story about a Japanese native living in Japan during World War 2, and how bitter that person was from all the destruction Japan faced from American bombings and whatnot, then yes, it is then fair game to complain about Japanese perceiving themselves to be victims when their own countrymen waged a brutal and vicious war against other countries.

However, this is a story about a Japanese American and his experiences being uprooted in America. Absolutely nothing to do with Japanese people in Japan. Completely different scenarios and experiences in every sense of the word.

The fact that many of you cannot seem to or refuse to differentiate between the two, is in fact the very reason why Japanese Americans like this man were put in internment camps during WW2 in the first place.

-13 ( +9 / -22 )

“Almost 70, 80 years since I knew America then, the same thing, discrimination, (is happening) now” against minorities, he said. It “never improves, this problem.”

This guy talk as if the same thing doesn't happen in Japan. Atleast there's laws against it in the US.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

Tamura now marvels at his youthful blind belief that Japan would win.

Seems to me that, at the time, his internment was entirely justified.

In the U.K., Japanese who naturalized as British citizens were not interned - one of whom included the second cousin of Princess Chichibu.

Kanso Yoshida (1895–1973, known to his friends as Paddy Murphy) was a Japanese-born British seaman who was related to Japanese Emperor Hirohito by marriage. He was a resident of England for most of his life, specifically in Liverpool from 1938.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Interesting life. I would rather have been in a US internment camp than a Japanese one.

11 ( +19 / -8 )

“The group were deemed disloyal”-

they were asked to pledge their loyalty and said no. They werent deemed, they were asked and they confirmed.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

bungle:

Kanso Yoshida (1895–1973, known to his friends as Paddy Murphy) was a Japanese-born British seaman who was related to Japanese Emperor Hirohito by marriage. He was a resident of England for most of his life, specifically in Liverpool from 1938.

Paddy Murphy ???!!!!!! LOL

6 ( +9 / -3 )

drove him to a fancy hilltop restaurant in San Francisco and showed him a sign outside that read, “Orientals Not Allowed.”

Yes, the plight of this American/Japanese is horrid, as it was for tens of thousands of Japanese all throughout the western world and parts of Asia at the time. It seems very petty for this one fellow to blame the Americans for his internment and treatment. They were at war with Japan. A war that provoked American involvement by the Japanese Imperial Army attacking Pearl Harbor. If this joker wants to point fingers he should be pointing it at the Japanese government of the time. They were the ones who made him a victim of war.

15 ( +22 / -7 )

What really blows my mind is that Americans were told by their government that this was absolutely necessary because the Japanese Americans couldn't be trusted. That was 100% a lie and we know this because even before all the internees arrived at the concentration camps many Japanese Americans were given waivers to work in top secret government work and to even join the U.S. military.  

Also, many local government officials and many of the internees' neighbors went along with this act of despotism in order to steal their land and businesses, most of which was never returned to them after the war.

-2 ( +12 / -14 )

1830

Indian Removal Act 

1851

Indian Appropriations Act

18821924

Immigration Act of 1924 Asian Exclusion Act Chinese/Japanese Exclusion Acts

1938

His uncle, who ran a grocery store, once drove him to a fancy hilltop restaurant in San Francisco and showed him a sign outside that read, “Orientals Not Allowed.”

euphemism such as "indian reservations" preceded the japanese internment camps by one hundred years.

realities were a lot more complex and uglier than just pretending and conveniently attributing to events directly leading up to ww2. racisms and discriminations were, and are still very deep seated, as can be seen in what is happening right now.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

I dont see this as the “Japanese portraying themselves as victims”, but the author clearly wants to portray this man and others like him as victims by looking at what happened removed from historical context. By his own admission he wouldnt pledge allegiance to the US, and had patriotism for Japan: what would you have them do? Release him and hope for the best? Keep a little eye on him?

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Secretly, Tamura hoped the Japanese military would rescue him from the camps.

Seeing as Tamura hoped the Japanese would invade the US, he does not sound like he was exactly the most loyal American patriot. Understandable then that the likes of Tamura were interned - not so for women and especially children, though.

He lived to tell the tale, and for that I'm sure he is grateful.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

"This guy talk as if the same thing doesn't happen in Japan. Atleast there's laws against it in the US."

Well said.

“Almost 70, 80 years since I knew America then, the same thing, discrimination, (is happening) now” against minorities, he said. It “never improves, this problem.”

So many people migrating to the US every year would probably not agree to this statement. Unlike the US, a foreigner can live all his life in Japan but would still be considered a gaijin.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

Given the incredible security threat at the time, there was nothing wrong with internement, especially with groups of people as clannish and ethnocentric as the Japanese.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

Given the incredible security threat at the time, there was nothing wrong with internement, especially with groups of people as clannish and ethnocentric as the Japanese.

How do you reconcile this with the 442nd Infantry Regiment, which was composed mainly of second-generation Japanese Americans, becoming the most decorated unit of its size for its actions in Europe in WWII?

0 ( +7 / -7 )

How do you reconcile this with the 442nd Infantry Regiment, which was composed mainly of second-generation Japanese Americans, becoming the most decorated unit of its size for its actions in Europe in WWII?

Quite easily. Why were they sent to Europe and not Asia-Pacific?

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Quite easily. Why were they sent to Europe and not Asia-Pacific?

Unfounded fears of them being clannish overriding their patriotism.

Why would they volunteer to fight anywhere for a country to which they allegedly had no allegiance due to their clannish and ethnocentric behavior?

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Why would they volunteer to fight anywhere for a country to which they allegedly had no allegiance due to their clannish and ethnocentric behavior?

Killing caucasians as a means of proving bona fides was a much more palatable prospect than killing their ethnic brethren.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

"Secretly, Tamura hoped the Japanese military would rescue him from the camps."

"Sweet dreams are made of this

Who am I to disagree?

I've traveled the world and the seven seas

Everybody's lookin' for something"

Eurythmics’

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Amazing how all this Victimism comes from a country that had the higher POW death,even higher than fascist Italy and German nazi.

I’m sorry for this old man that he suffered during that timeline,but he should be old and wise enough to know is that the Axis started the world war II and they were the one that decided to don’t follow the Geneve protocol etc.

9 ( +15 / -6 )

Did you know that German-Americans and Italian-Americans? Japanese-Americans finally received compensation while the German-Americans and Italian-Americans did not. Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold tried to get bill though to rectify that but failed.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I respect his story. But, in a way he was lucky to be in America. If he had returned to Japan he would not have been trusted and might have been imprisoned due to his American citizenship. Internees in the US were treated far better than their counterparts in Japan. I'll make no excuses for the way Japanese Americans were treated during the war with Japan. I don't think it was fair or just. Unfortunately, it happened. Let's prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Amazing how he deluded himself into believing Japan would defeat the USA. That shows us the distance humans in denial are willing to go before they can smell the coffee and open their eyes to reality. A variant of this all too human propensity is the "Emperor's New Clothes" syndrome which is on full display even today after a five-year long parade of fake patriotism and malevolent political legerdemain.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

He should compare stories with POW's from the Thai/Burma railway camps...

8 ( +13 / -5 )

There are millions of stories from the war.

We have Japanese-American family and in laws, and their stories are also amazing. Some stayed in the camp until they were released in 1943. One joined the 442 Infantry Combat Team, and fought for the USA. By the way, the 442nd remains the highest decorated regiment in American history, and the only unit of its size without a single member who went AWOL or who deserted. And, we have in laws who asked to be returned to Japan, and did so during the war.

Like dad always said, the truth is stranger than fiction.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Killing caucasians as a means of proving bona fides was a much more palatable prospect than killing their ethnic brethren

This is pure speculation.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

What's the matter of this article? He could've get annihilated if did the same in Japan as an American Japanese.

It's just his wrong decision to take the small island's side. What a waist. If he didn't his descendents could enjoy being American without a green card and speak nice English.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

I found this article interesting, I have always known about Japanese Americans\Canadians being interned & the unfairness etc but I have never dug into it at all. To hear this guy Tamura san talking about his thoughts & the groups he was aligned with it certainly seems there clearly needed to be some camps for sure. I wonder if these groups were common or not at other camps, while clearly many were unfairly interned CLEARLY some were FAIRLY interned!

And it seems this guy after all these years still doesnt understand well what went down from the 1930s to 40s & he like many Japanese still dont really know their own history of WWII now 75yrs later......THAT is something & its not good

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Gaijinjland

“What the Japanese did was to human life was way worse than what the Americans (sic)“

 

Completely off-topic. 

American citizens of Japanese origin were discriminated against by other Americans because of their race. It has nothing to do with what their home country did.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Keep in mnid that not all ethnic japanese were interned. It was found out that after the war, some japanese-americans were in fact spying on America on japan's behalf.

Additionally, germans and italians were also interned.

He choose japan's side. What did he expect. His victimhood tone is unacceptable.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

oldman_13: How is his story "uniquely American" when the guy refused to pledge an oath to the US, hoped Japan would win the war, protested and hoped he would be rescued by Japan, then ultimately came back and still resides here? I don't think anyone is saying what happened was right -- far from it, and even the US and then Canada formally apologized, but you gotta wonder if the US worried about spies or uprisings there amongst Japanese US residents or Americans of Japanese descent, this guy didn't fit the bill perfectly.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"Given the incredible security threat at the time, there was nothing wrong with internement, especially with groups of people as clannish and ethnocentric as the Japanese."

In other words, racism was justifiable.

For God's sake, people stop trying to muddle the issues; this person was an AMERICAN.

He was subjected to discrimination solely because of his ethnicity & race!

If your take is "well, all is fair in love and war, he deserved it because Japan started the war, bla bla, bla", then don't moan later when you get done by the J's.

You all condemn the Japanese, but when the shoe is on the other foot, suddenly everyone gets busy trying to defend the indefensible, even attempting to blame the man for his own ordeal.

Oldman_13 has it right, yet everyone is pretending not to grasp what he is on about.

Simples.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I like how JT picks up articles to show.

How about balancing with an article about war prisoners of the Japan Empire ?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"How about balancing with an article about war prisoners of the Japan Empire ?"

No balancing act allowed in here.

Japan was cruel, barbaric, sadistic (if you can blame the country), but atrocities were carried out upon foreigners. Not that it was right, but they were not Japan born foreigners, and citizens.

This case at hand is that on an American national adversely affected by the actions of his own government.

All because he looked Japanese.

He was NOT Japanese, or a foreigner.

That is what this article is all about.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

What do you expect from a White spiteful America, German were not rounded up end mass

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

What do you expect from a White spiteful America, German were not rounded up end mass

In the context of the Second World War, calling America spiteful is ridiculous. And yes, Germans were interned in US. And by "end mass" do you mean "en masse"?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

they were asked to pledge their loyalty and said no. They werent deemed, they were asked and they confirmed.

They were stripped of their possessions and thrown into places like horse stables with their whole families for a year. Then some clown comes to ask if they are loyal. I would have ripped that clown's head off given the chance. That could sap anybody's loyalty.

This is basically the same reason Mohammad Ali refused to fight in Vietnam. He had no quarrel with the Vietnamese. He had a very real and legitimate quarrel with a great swath of his countrymen who were oppressing him, his family and his friends.

it is then fair game to complain about Japanese perceiving themselves to be victims when their own countrymen waged a brutal and vicious war against other countries.

Absolutely preposterous. My countrymen waged illegitimate war in Iraq and Afghanistan that I opposed from the start. People like you think its okay for Iraqis and Afghanis to come bomb my house for what those idiots and warmongers did. Well its NOT! I am not responsible for any cretin born in my country! NOT ONE!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Australia and Canada also interned Japanese, in addition to German, Italian and others.

The war was not a good time...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

In the US thousands of German Americans were also interred during WW2, but for some strange reason it is never talked about in the media, or mentioned on public discourse.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The internments took place under FDR’s watch, btw. That hero of the Democratic party.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

What do you expect from a White spiteful America, German were not rounded up end mass

Youre completely wrong.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"What the Japanese did to human life . . . . "

Prior to WW2 most Asian countries were occupied by European powers . . . the war with Japan afterwards helped to bring independence to countries in South East Asia allowing these countries to be self governing . . . .  It was the Germans who killed millions of during the Holocaust and also 20 million Russians on the Eastern front . . . . In the Japanese American camp, Manzanaar, there was a group of internees who attempted peaceful protest yet where a decorated WW1 JA veteran was killed.  Gila River, Topaz, . . . there were many camps, but many of the Japanese Americans agreed to fight for U. S. against the Nazis in Europe, coming home with severe battle wounds, 112 stitches for one of my own from a  . . . German Nazi from Czechoslavakia . . . . This is not a new story . . . .

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

 It was the Germans who killed millions of during the Holocaust and also 20 million Russians on the Eastern front . . . .

And what do you think the IJA did with their occupied territories? Played Pokemon and taught them ikebana? It was called the Bataan Death March for a reason, and that's just one on a list about as long as my arm of Imperial Japanese atrocities.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

many of the Japanese Americans agreed to fight for U. S. against the Nazis in Europe

After being jailed for a year with their families and threatened with more jail if they didn't go fight. This is about like holding a gun to a woman's head and saying she agreed to have sex.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This is one person's very interesting and true story. It deserves to be told. However, it does not represent what most Japanese-Americans felt about the war. For instance, in the factual TV series "Band of Brothers," there is a scene where an American soldier comes across a German soldier, a prisoner, who speaks perfect English. It turns out the German soldier had been an American citizen living in Oregon. He returned to Germany to fight for the "Fatherland." These things happen, but they are more significant for their rarity.

I wonder if Japan Times will ever tell the stories about the kamikaze pilots who surrendered to the allies rather than die. We had one such pilot at one of the places I used to work. He landed his plane, got out, and surrendered. It turns out that about 10% of all kamikaze pilots tried to surrender, rather than die. Any chance any of them will get to tell their story?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Racism exists everywhere in various ways. Even in Africa with only black people it exists among the various tribes. In Asia among Asian looking people of various groups it exists.

You can't ever really escape from it no matter where you are in many if not most places. It's always there...somewhere.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I recommend this graphic novel shedding some light on the matter of Americans of Japanese descend:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42527866-they-called-us-enemy

Especially about the infamous questions No. 27 and No. 28.

Serving a country that took your properties and businesses and put you in sheds behind barbed wire? I would have answered "no".

Forswear any allegiance to the Japanese Emperor? As an American citizen? What kind of loaded question is that? Another "no".

It's sad, especially because the USA seem to have learned nothing and are still putting children behind barbed wire.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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