Japanese-American 'No No Boys'JULY 5, 2008
- A patriotic suspect
- (Dorathea Lange)
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Japanese Americans forced into internment camps during World War II were given a questionnaire on which two questions were of particular importance:
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Question #27 asked: "Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?"
Question #28 asked: "Will you swear unqualified allegiances to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or other foreign government, power or organization?"
Feeling betrayed by their native country, many young American-born Japanese boys answered "no" to both questions. They were segregated into a special camp and considered potential enemies of this country. The name given them was the "No-No Boys."
Bill Nishimura: My name is Bill Nishimura. Number 27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered? I answered "No."
Number 28, I answered in blank and wrote a note underneath stating that when my civil rights is restored I will answer this question.
They assumed that was negative -- and so people who answered "No, No" at that time, they were sent to Tule Lake. I wasn't really happy to go there because I didn't want to be called a disloyal. I was still an American and I was just fighting for my civil rights. When I got to Tule Lake, I was just startled -- fenced all around the camp, so many guard towers. "Oh, so this is the segregation center" I thought.
On the war's end, my concern was being deported to Japan. The greatest news while I was in camp was this announcement, the government they said "If you wish to go to Japan, well we won't stop you, but we're not forcing you to go to Japan." I thought to myself, "Uncle Sam still has a warm heart for me."
Gene Akutsu: My name is Gene Akutsu. I answered the questions 27 as "No" and question 28 as "Yes."
They decided to activate the draft in January, I guess it was, and by April I was one of the first to be called in for induction, which I didn't follow. Then the FBI came and off I went. Three years, three months at the Federal Prison in McNeil Island.
The times that used to get to me was in the daytime -- I'd hear the seagulls. I used to get melancholy over that 'cause when I was young, we always lived right close to the sound here, so we hear the seagulls all the time and those thoughts would drift through my mind, in and out.
I got out in 1946. When my mother passed away, I refer to that as a wartime casualty. When my brother and I made it back home, we found out that the church members had told her "Don't come to church any more." One day it all got to her and she took her life.
If she had only lived one more year longer, we would have had a clearance from the president saying that we are all okay and you have all your citizenship back -- that's all she was living for.