Civil Liberties Act of 1988

In 1970, the Japanese American Citizens League at its National Convention adopted a resolution to seek redress for the loss of liberties and property of those impacted by the exclusion and internment orders. Thus began a 20-year battle for redress. JACL and the Japanese American legislators, Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Spark M. Matsunaga and Representatives Norman Y. Mineta and Robert Matsui, were successful in obtaining Congressional approval for the creation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in 1980. After extensive research and hearings around the country, the Commission found that military necessity did not warrant the exclusion and detention of Japanese Americans. It concluded that the “broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” As a result, “a grave injustice was done to American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who, without individual review or any probative evidence against them, were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.” The Commission recommended monetary compensation of $20,000.00 per internee as a symbolic payment to redress the government’s actions. The House of Representatives passed the Act on the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. The House bill was numbered HR 442, in honor of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese American unit that fought in Europe during World War II. The Senate Bill, SB 1009, was passed by the Senate on April 20, 1988, by a vote of 69 to 27. All that was left was to convince President Reagan to sign HR 442 into law. As a captain in the Army, President Reagan had presented a Distinguished Service Cross to the family of Kazuo Masuda, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, posthumously. Captain Reagan stated, “The blood that has soaked into the sands of the beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world, the only country not founded on race, but on a way ‑ an ideal.” On August 10, 1988, President Reagan signed H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. President Reagan stated at the signing ceremony, “Here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.” The first redress payments to Central California residents were made at a ceremony in the Federal District Court in Fresno on October 12, 1990. Assistant United States Attorney General  John Dunn presented President George Bush’s letter of apology and $20,000 checks to Shigeto Thomas Ito (92), George Masumi Sakai (92), Neal Nishino (93), Sumino Yemoto (97), and Fuji Hashimoto (102). He stated, “The root meaning of redress is ‘to rearrange’ or ‘set in order again.’ Its meaning today, according to Webster’s dictionary, is to remedy or rectify, to make amends for wrong done or injury inflicted. While we know we cannot ‘rearrange’...

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John Tagami’s Tribute to Nisei Veterans

Thanks for that introduction, Jeannette. I’d like to thank JACL and Dale Ikeda for inviting me tonight to pay tribute to the Nisei veterans of WWII. Because of time constraints, I am taking the liberty of confining my remarks to veterans of the Military Intelligence Service. When I was growing up, we sansei had very few role JA models in mainstream culture. I loved Kato from the Green Hornet and Mr. Sulu from Star Trek. Kato rocked; Sulu was cool as a cucumber. But even as a kid, I knew that they were just supporting players, never the main guy. Fortunately, we had real-life role models who took second billing to no one – the soldiers of the 100/442. The 442 were the icons of our childhood: all of us knew bits and pieces of their legend: the assault on Monte Cassino, the battle at Anzio, the Rescue of the Lost Battalion, and the countless awards, including (now) 21 Medals of Honor, they earned. We took vicarious pride in the success of “Go for Broke” veterans like Senator Inouye. But we knew very little about another group of deserving Nisei soldiers, the Military Intelligence Service, mainly because their activities were kept secret and also because they were fewer in number — only 3000 served in the war. A quick review of why the MIS experience was special. First, unlike the 442 as I’ve said, the MIS performed their work in secret. If their existence had been known, the information they gathered would have been useless or even used against our own side. In contrast, the heroics of the 442 were widely publicized, and rightly so, of course. Second, MISers were the first of the Nisei to enter the war. The first MIS graduates were deployed six months after Pearl Harbor, in the Aleutians and later the Southwest Pacific. They performed so well that they influenced the War Department’s decision to approve formation of the 442 the next year. So, if there had not been an MIS, there might never have been a 442. Third, unlike the 442, the MIS fought directly against the Japanese. Even as the patriotism of AJAs at home was questioned, the MIS were already serving in action against Japanese soldiers — sometimes even against brothers, as was the case for at least one MISer, Harry Fukuhara. In doing so, they ran the risk of being killed by our own troops – they often had to have white escorts, even to use the latrines. Fourth, the MIS was a support service, not an operational unit. They were attached to combat units in the field, in ones and twos and small teams, wherever needed. Because of this,...

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