Setting the record straight on ‘Allegiance’

The play “Allegiance” attempts to promote sympathy for those who answered no to loyalty questionnaire questions or refused induction into the U.S. Army (aka “resisters”) by seeking to taint the reputation of those who volunteered to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), a segregated Japanese American combat unit formed in the U.S. Army at the urging of Mike Masaoka. The takeaway message of the play is that those who volunteered to serve in the 442nd RCT were duped and thus the resisters made the better choice as to how to show their loyalty to the United States.

“Allegiance” Fails to Address the Prejudice and Racial Profiling That Motivated Executive Order 9066
The play fails to address the overt prejudice motivating governmental policies that resulted in Executive Order 9066. There was not a single documented act of sabotage, espionage, or fifth column activity committed by a Japanese American or a resident Japanese alien in the States covered by EO 9066. There was no justification or need for EO 9066. Furthermore, the report of the Presidential Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians documents that President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lt. Gen. John DeWitt, and others were motivated by “prejudice, war hysteria, and lack of political leadership.”

Why are the play’s producers misdirecting the blame away from government officials responsible for falsely imprisoning innocent persons while demonizing a Japanese American activist who was fighting against insurmountable odds to protect those who were the victims of EO 9066?

“Allegiance” Over Romanticizes the Story of the Resisters  
Of the approximately 78,000 who were required to fill out the loyalty questionnaire, approximately 68,000 gave an unqualified yes answer to questions 27 and 28 amounting to 87 percent. Of the remaining 10,000, 5,300 answered no to both questions, amounting to 6.8 percent. The remainder failed to answer or gave a qualified answer. Of the eligible men who received induction notices, 315 refused to serve and 263 were convicted.

The play fails to portray a third group of resisters who wanted to be repatriated and expatriated to Japan or who renounced their American citizenship. Approximately 20,000 filed applications to be repatriated and expatriated to Japan or about 16 percent of the evacuees; of which, 4,724 returned to Japan. Over 5,500 Japanese Americans renounced their citizenship.

It would be unfair to conclude that all resisters wanted Japan to win the war. Their decision to answer no to both question 27 or 28, to file an application to be repatriated and expatriated to Japan, or to renounce their American citizenship may have been influenced by other reasons such as the prejudicial treatment by the government and not necessarily by an allegiance to Japan.

The important point is that the resisters were in the minority and that all those in that minority may not have been loyal to America as compared to all who volunteered to serve in the 442nd RCT.

442nd RCT Was Not a Suicide Battalion
During World War II, 11,260,000 served in the U.S. Army; of which, 318,274 were killed or missing. The number killed amounted to a 2.8 percent death rate. Approximately 33,000 Nisei soldiers served in the U.S. Army, with 569 soldiers in the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd RCT killed in action amounting to a 1.7 percent death rate. In comparison, the Japanese Army had 6,300,000 soldiers, with 1,326,076 killed, amounting to a 21 percent death rate.

The members of the 442nd RCT proved their loyalty by winning and not by dying. Together with the 100th Infantry Battalion, they fought in seven major campaigns, receiving seven Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations and earning close to 18,200 individual decorations including 21 Medals of Honor.  The 442nd RCT, including the 100th Infantry Battalion, is often referred to as one of the most highly decorated combat units in U.S. military history. Members of the 442nd RCT, 100th Infantry Battalion and Military Intelligence Service were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian honor that America can bestow, in November 2011.

What distinguishes the valor of the 442nd RCT, including the 100th Infantry Battalion, is that their valor was sustained in all their combat engagements over a two-year period. Their courage came from within themselves as a matter of honor, and their unparalleled bravery on the battlefields is what won the war against prejudice at home.

Masaoka’s Foresight in Advocating for a Segregated Combat Unit Was Brilliant  
Ironically, the racial prejudice that led to EO 9066 created the opportunity for Masaoka to advocate for a Japanese American segregated combat unit. Without this opportunity, Japanese Americans who served probably would have been assigned to non-combat duties such as clerks, cooks, mess hall attendants, etc.

Due to Masaoka’s foresight, the 442nd RCT was formed and given the opportunities to prove themselves.

They showed their valor and assembled a combat record that has yet to be surpassed. This opportunity will never again be available to any ethnic group.

442nd RCT Combat Record and Masaoka’s Foresight Created a Lasting Legacy
Their legendary military record was cited by members of Congress in support of passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act (McCarran-Walter Act), giving Issei the right to become naturalized U.S. citizens, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 apologizing for the unjust imprisonment of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and awarding redress payments, the National Japanese American Memorial Act of 1992 authorizing the building of a national memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor the patriotism of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the confinement sites preservation act of 2006, creating a federal grant program to preserve the confinement sites used during World War II to imprison persons of Japanese ancestry under the authority of EO 9066. Though these acts of Congress, their war record and Masaoka’s foresight have continued to fight the war against prejudice at home.

Gerald Yamada is the president of the Japanese American Veterans Association. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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