70 Years Since Executive Order 9066 – No-No Boys and Renunciants: Loyal or Disloyal?

The following is an announcement on behalf of the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California (JAHSSC) and a related essay by JAHSSC member Richard Katsuda.


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Photo courtesy Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California

TORRANCE, CA — 70 Years Since EO 9066: No-No Boys And Renunciants – Loyal Or Disloyal, a forum presented by the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California (JAHSSC) and the Torrance Public Library, is scheduled for Saturday, October 27, 2012, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library Community Room, in Torrance, California.

Though 70 years have passed since the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, the renunciants and No-no’s have had to endure the stigma of the labels “disloyal” and “troublemaker,” and have had to live in the shadows without telling their stories. This forum will allow them to tell their stories. Others in the community need to hear those stories and allow for redemption and healing for these individuals and for the community as a whole.

Featured speakers include writer, poet, actor and Tule Lake “No-No,” Hiroshi Kashiwagi, who will share his experiences, and will read his poems, Radio Station KOBY, and A Meeting at Tule Lake; “No-No” and renunciant Bill Nishimura, who was in his twenties at Poston III, Tule Lake, Santa Fe and Crystal City; Grace Hata, who was in her mid-teens at Manzanar and Tule Lake, before her family as forced to repatriate to war-devastated Japan after the war, instead of their Gardena, California home; Ernie Jane Nishii, whose father was imprisoned in the stockade at the Tule Lake, while she was a young girl.

Also featured will be excerpts from Dr. Satsuki Ina’s film, From a Silk Cocoon, a Japanese American renunciation story, will be shown.

The Katy Geissert Civic Center Library is located at 3301 Torrance, Boulevard, Torrance, California, 90503-5014, (310) 618-5959 (you can view a map and get directions by scrolling to the bottom of this article).

The event is free, and open to the public. For more information, contact Richard Katsuda at rkatsuda@lausd.net.

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70 Years Since EO9066 – “No-No Boys” and “Renunciants”: Loyal or Disloyal? – An Essay

by Richard Katsuda

Richard Katsuda
Photo: Tom Walker/Manzanar Commmittee

You might be asking, ‘why should I care about this story? It’s been 70 years since the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, right?’ Maybe you think you know enough about this history—you know about the violations of civil liberties and human rights. You know about the redress movement that achieved an important measure of justice—an apology from the President, and at least a token amount of monetary compensation.

You might even know that not one person of Japanese ancestry was ever accused, let alone convicted, of espionage or sabotage during World War II. But did you know that the United States Government had intelligence reports from the FBI, Army, and Navy, as well as a specially commissioned report on Japanese American loyalty prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, all of which indicated that Japanese Americans were as loyal as any other ethnic group in the United States?

It gets worse. Instead of assuming that Japanese Americans were “innocent until proven guilty,” the federal government questioned the loyalty of all Japanese Americans, denied them due process of law, and incarcerated them in concentration camps. After a few months in the camps, Japanese Americans were then given a questionnaire that culminated in Questions #27 and #28:

 

Question #27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States in combat duty, wherever ordered?

Question #28: Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance to the Japanese Emperor or any other foreign government, power, or organization

Government officials decided that a “yes” response to question #28 indicated loyalty and a “no” response indicated disloyalty to the United States.

How do you reply? Think about it…your entire life and integrity is reduced to one and only one oversimplified and unyielding question. There’s no room for any explanations of responses—simply yes or no.

The government placed the burden of the question of loyalty on the shoulders of Japanese Americans when it knew it could not prove any disloyalty on the part of Japanese Americans.

In our democracy, the burden of proof is on the government to demonstrate any disloyalty.

So what happened to Japanese Americans who were put in this impossible situation: for they had nothing to prove—the clear absence of any disloyal acts (“no espionage or sabotage”) should have driven the government to accept that no Japanese Americans were disloyal. But the government, failing to live up to its promise of due process of law, instead cut to the core of Japanese Americans’ sense of dignity and belief in themselves.

Japanese Americans were forced to answer this question and suffer all the turmoil that it brought. Within the confines of a concentration camp, they began to question themselves and others. They began to feel intense hostilities toward those who, for whatever reasons, felt they needed to answer “no” to question #28.

Finger-pointing and scapegoating were rampant. Japanese Americans could not confront the federal government that had created this mess, so they began to blame those who answered “no” for their predicament.

Why did many people answer “no”? Some felt anger that their government would even ask them that question, especially after it had denied them any due process of law. Japanese immigrants (Issei) were prohibited from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens, and answering “yes” to question #28 would mean that they could lose their Japanese citizenship, leaving them as stateless people.

Some thought a “yes” response suggested that the respondent had prior loyalty to Japan, thinking that to “forswear” allegiance to the Japanese Emperor meant that he or she had loyalty to the Emperor in the first place. Many feared that those responding “no-no” to questions #27 and #28 would be sent to a separate camp. Some answered “no-no” because their parents had done so, and they felt they needed to in order to keep their family together.

Those who answered “no-no” to questions #27 and #28 became known as “No-No Boys,” and they were indeed sent to a separate camp—they were locked up in the Tule Lake Segregation Center. There, many renounced their U.S. citizenship and became known as “renunciants.” The circumstances of why those people renounced their citizenship also created turmoil among the inmates at Tule Lake, and many people felt that the government manipulated the renunciations.

This was all terrible and tragic. But what’s perhaps even worse is that these “No-No Boys” and “renunciants” have had to carry this incredible burden of shame all of these 70 years that have since passed. The enduring narrative is that the people who were at Tule Lake were the “bad ones,” the “troublemakers”—and many in the Japanese American community still feel that way.

Please help us to relieve the “No-No Boys” and the “renunciants” of this burden of shame and properly place it on the shoulders of the U.S Government. Come hear the stories of these so-called “disloyals” and let them know that we know that it was the government and not they who are to blame for what Japanese Americans had to endure during World War II.

Let us bring healing to these individuals and to the Japanese American community as a whole. It’s been 70 years, but it’s not too late to set the record straight and allow the Japanese American community and our country to learn from the whole story of what Japanese Americans had to bear during World War II and the 70 years since.

Richard Katsuda is the chair for the event, 70 Years Since EO9066 – “No-No Boys” and “Renunciants”: Loyal or Disloyal. He is also a member of the National Coalition for Civil Rights and Redress.

The views expressd in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.

Katy Geissert Civic Center Library, Torrance, California


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