After graduating from high school, one youth went into the U.S. Army, another went to prison. Both fought for their rightful place in the United States.
Stanley Hayami and Takashi Hoshizaki came of age during the early 1940s, in the midst of World War II. Like other teenagers of their time, the two youths were drafted into the U.S. Army, with one exception--Hayami and Hoshizaki were called to fight for democracy overseas while they and their families languished in American-style concentration camps. Hayami and Hoshizaki, both Southern California natives, received their draft notices while incarcerated at the Heart Mountain War Relocation Authority camp, near Cody, Wyoming. The U.S. government, which had imprisoned Hayami and Hoshizaki for looking like the enemy, was now asking the youths to join the very army that was guarding them at Heart Mountain.
Heart Mountain was one of ten War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps established by the U.S. government following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although briefed on the lack of military necessity, President Franklin Roosevelt issued the mass eviction and incarceration order of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast in 1942. Japanese Americans could bring only what they could carry into the camps, and all other belongings, ranging from their homes, heavy appliances and automobiles, had to be sold for pennies on the dollar or abandoned.
The Duty of Every Male Citizen
A glimpse into the intertwining issues of selective service requirements, civil rights, and loyalty as experienced by two Southern California Japanese Americans during World War II.
Originally produced and published under KCET Webstories
Draft-aged American men of Japanese ancestry all came under suspicion and were re-classified 4C, enemy aliens. Japanese Americans already serving in the U.S. Army before the bombing of Pearl Harbor had their weapons taken away and were demoted to menial chores such as latrine duty. Japanese American soldiers who protested the treatment were court-martialed. Many were sent to Leavenworth prison and dishonorably discharged. As the war in Europe intensified, and after all Japanese Americans had been removed from the West Coast and dispersed into the WRA camps, the U.S. government realized it was incarcerating loyal Americans. As a means of increasing the number of troops and to give Japanese Americans an opportunity to prove their loyalty, the government dared to seek out volunteers for the U.S. Army among the population detained behind barbed wire. Not surprisingly, the government's volunteer drive from the WRA camps fell far short of its expectations.
But some did volunteer for the Army. Stanley Hayami was one of them. In the diary that he kept in Heart Mountain from ages 16 to 19, he writes of military officials visiting the camp to explain that volunteering for a segregated Army unit would prove Japanese Americans' loyalty to the United States, and that by serving in a segregated unit, the heroic exploits of the men could be better publicized. Hayami also comments on the disagreements and divisions that ensued as a result of the issue. The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), an organization comprised primarily of American-born professionals, espoused this same policy, believing that the battle for the hearts and minds of white America was just as important as physical combat. The JACL also successfully petitioned the government to reinstate the draft for Japanese American males so that they could prove their Americanism with their own blood.
Hayami's decision cost him his life, but his legacy lives on as a soldier of the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which distinguished itself as the most decorated U.S. Army unit for its size and length of service. The 442nd RCT had been preceded by the 100th Infantry, a unit comprised of Japanese American men from Hawaii, a state that had not participated in the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans. The 100th proved to be fierce fighters, and a 1943 Associated Press dispatch wrote: "This Army rang with praises today for the 'guinea pigs from Pearl Harbor'--a unit of American infantry composed almost entirely of men of Japanese ancestry..." The distinction came at a heavy price. At the key Battle of Cassino in Italy, the 100th started with 1,300 men. Three weeks later, it had less than 500.
In June 1944, the 100th Battalion was merged with the newly formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which now included Japanese American men from Hawaii and the mainland. In October 1944, the 442nd/100th was assigned to rescue a Texas battalion that was caught behind enemy lines. Before the battle, the 442nd/100th had the strength of 2,943 men. By the end of the rescue, the 442nd/100th had shrunk to a third of its size with 161 dead, 43 missing and more than 2,000 wounded. In 2000 -- more than six decades after World War II -- 20 soldiers from the 442nd/100th received a belated recognition when the U.S. government issued them the Medal of Honor, the highest military recognition.
Hoshizaki, then 18-years-old, took a different tactic. As a Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee (FPC) member, Hoshizaki participated in the only organized draft resistance movement from within the 10 WRA camps. The FPC refused to serve in the military until their rights as American citizens were restored and their families released from camp.
For this stand, the FPC draft resisters were prosecuted by the government and ostracized as pariahs within the Japanese American community. The JACL and the Heart Mountain Sentinel, the camp newspaper, branded the FPC as "cowards" and "troublemakers" for allegedly dodging the draft. The JACL also actively opposed the draft resisters, visiting them in county jail to try to change their minds. A total of 85 draft resisters from Heart Mountain were found guilty of violating the 1940 Selective Service Act and sentenced to two to three years at either the Leavenworth Federal Correctional Institute in Kansas or at the McNeil Island Federal Correctional Institute, off the coast of Washington.
In addition, seven FPC leaders and James Omura, English-section editor of the Rocky Shimpo newspaper, were arrested and faced a variety of charges, including sedition and counseling others to evade the draft. The leaders were found guilty and sentenced to three years at Leavenworth. While serving their sentences, the leaders had their convictions overturned on appeal in December 1945. Omura was acquitted on grounds of the First Amendment. But the court case left him broke.
In total, there were approximately 315 Japanese American draft resisters from the mainland and Hawaii during World War II. President Truman issued a pardon to all draft resisters in December 1947.
Hoshizaki served his sentence at McNeil Island and quietly rejoined his family in Los Angeles in 1946, almost a year after the 1945 end of World War II. Once life stabilized, he pursued his dream of higher education, enrolling at Los Angeles City College. Just as he finished his master's degree at UCLA, he was drafted during the Korean War. As a free citizen, Hoshizaki served two years in the military and received an honorable discharge. He went on to earn a doctoral degree in botanical science from UCLA on the GI bill but his prison stint haunted him, especially when he needed clearance to work on a space research program.
For the next four decades, the Japanese American draft resisters were written out of popular Japanese American history books and forgotten, while the exploits of the 442nd soldiers reached legendary status and even made it into a Hollywood movie.
Then, the United States went through a shift. The 1960s civil rights movement and the Vietnam War made it acceptable to speak out against racial discrimination and government oppression. A younger generation of Japanese Americans started asking their parents why they hadn't resisted their World War II incarceration. Thus, began the re-discovery of the draft resisters in the 1980s, largely through the efforts of playwright Frank Chin and journalist Frank Abe.
With the draft resisters' resurrection, an emotionally charged rift within the Japanese American community came to the fore. The deep, raw wound manifested itself in nasty letters to the editor in the Japanese American press and shouting matches at conferences. The most vocal draft resister opponents were the JACL and Japanese American veterans. While the U.S. government issued a formal apology in 1988 for putting Japanese Americans into camps, the JACL would take another decade of internal bickering before it would issue a public apology at a 2002 public ceremony in San Francisco for not acknowledging the principled stand of the draft resisters. Hoshizaki attended the event.
Japanese Americans veterans have built or have had dedicated to them a number of monuments across the United States. Stanley Hayami's name lives on in granite. Even today, however, the majority of the draft resisters refuse to identify themselves. Many have died without telling their stories of civil disobedience in the face of injustice.
Hayami and Hoshizaki, two men who were mere teenagers when they made their decisions, had an enormous impact on an entire ethnic community's legacy and acceptance into white America. Hayami took his fight into the court of public opinion; Hoshizaki fought in a court of law -- both acts signified courageous forms of patriotism.Masayo Duus, Unlikely Liberators: The Men of the 100th and 442nd (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987, p. 113; Hattiesburg American, Oct. 21, 1943 Duus. p. 119 Duus, p. 217 Martha Nakagawa is a freelance journalist, who has also worked as a staff reporter for Asian Week, the Rafu Shimpo and the Pacific Citizen since the early 1990s.