In July 2000, the national Japanese American Citizens League voted to apologize for its suppression of wartime resistance. Several JACL old-timers walked out in protest.” On Saturday, May 11, 2002, about 300 people filled the gym at the San Francisco Japanese American Community and Cultural Center for the Nisei Resisters of Conscience of World War II Recognition and Reconciliation Ceremony.
The event was remarkable for a number of reasons:
• The event captured the imagination of the media locally, nationally, and even worldwide. Effective outreach by Keith Kamisugi and his Resisters.net site caught the attention of editors who framed this as another WW2 “sixty years later” reconciliation story. Japanese NHK-TV was there, as was the Wall Street Journal and many local broadcast and print media.
• The event succeeded in drawing out 21 draft resisters from Heart Mountain, Amache and even the lone resister from Jerome, Joe Yamakido, who told me he just wanted to see it but didn’t want to be introduced. We got his name to the organizers, and after he came up to receive his ceremonial gift and returned to his seat high in the bleachers, his daughter gave him a big hug and wiped away her own tears. It was also a shock to finally get to meet George Kurasaki, Halley Minoura, Bob Nagahara, and other Heart Mountain resisters who are in the courtroom photo but never wanted to come out in public until now.
• JACL National President Floyd Mori and Executive Director John Tateishi took a great risk in fulfilling the membership’s mandate to hold a public ceremony. Twelve years ago it would have been unthinkable to see the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee admitted as a group to a JACL meeting, much less be the center of honor and attention. Even when Frank Emi (pictured above) and Mits Koshiyama spoke at the 1994 JACL convention in Salt Lake City, there was an uneasy air about the invitation and a local white scholar was brought in to mediate the proceedings. In the 20th century a convention resolution deemed ill-advised by the Nisei old guard would have simply been redirected or undermined by JACL leadership. By following their own consciences, and the mandate of their members, Mori and Tateishi have elevated the JACL of today to a new level of credibility as the civil rights organization it has strived to be since resettlement.
Resistance leader Frank Emi and draft resister Yosh Kuromiya graciously acknowledged the reconciliation. But what may have been lost in the good feelings of the moment, which several journalists did not miss, was that Emi and Yosh raised the stakes by calling on JACL to consider apologizing to the entire community for its policy of compliance with expulsion and initial waiver of civil rights for an entire people. Here is Emi’s closing:
“I wish to extend my appreciation to the JACL for sponsoring this ceremony. As a civil rights organization, I believe it is a step in the right direction.
Having said that, I think it would be entirely appropriate for JACL to go one step further and hold a similar program directed towards the Japanese American community for the excesses committed by wartime JACL leaders, such as acting as informants for the government causing many innocent people to suffer, as recorded in the Lim Report.
I believe such action would finally put to rest, JACL’s unholy ghosts of the past and would be a worthy way to start the 21st century.
The United States government apologized for their wartime excesses. Can JACL do less?”
That was unexpected, but on reflection it is typical Frank Emi. Never afraid to take a stand. It is his image, by the way, at the top of this page.
The policies and positions taken by the JACL relative to the draft resisters at Heart Mountain were clearly and plainly spelled out in correspondence, bulletins, memoranda, and in the editorials of the PacificCitizen.
No figure in Japanese American history stirs as much debate—indeed, as much heated controversy, even to this day—as Mike “Moses” Masaoka, the National Secretary of the Japanese American Citizens League during World War II.Masaoka was only 26 years old when he assumed de facto leadership of the JACL, filling a void left after the U.S.government rounded up thousands of first generation “Issei” leaders and detained them, often for years without charge or trial, following the bombing
Frank Emi is a Japanese American who was a leader of the Fair Play Committee, a group formed in the U.S. detention camp at Heart Mountain, Wyo. during World War II. He and 85 other Japanese detainees refused induction into the U.S. armed forces to protest the wholesale incarceration of Japanese during the war. Emi and six other leaders were convicted of conspiracy to evade the draft and of counseling others to evade the draft.