The will to Believe
I have often had cause in the last years to ponder the odd ways in which history becomes not just a tool for people but an article of faith or identity. I discovered this in particular when I first began doing research on Franklin Roosevelt and Japanese Americans for the project that became By Order of the President. I found that a number of Japanese Americans, on hearing that I was studying Franklin Roosevelt, would ask me whether Roosevelt had foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor and had let Japan attack in order to bring the United States into the War--or more precisely they would ask me to confirm their faith that he did so. At first, I would answer as best as I could that I did not think there was any conclusive evidence to support such an idea. Afterwards, I decided to answer simply that I had no idea--I was studying Japanese Americans, after all, not Japanese, and the Nisei played no role in Pearl Harbor. After a while, it dawned on me why so many Japanese Americans were asking the question: they still felt stigmatized by Japan's surprise attack, I realized, and they thought—either consciously or unconsciously-- that if it could be shown that Roosevelt had let the attack go on, that meant Japan was innocent, and that got them all off the hook. Once this sank in, I felt enormous compassion for the Japanese Americans who had been so brutalized for their connection with Japan that they needed to believe that FDR was the manipulator--they still could not quite grasp that they themselves were innocent, and that nothing of what happened during the attack was their doing.
The culminating irony is that the comfort they seek is largely illusory. Whatever Roosevelt did or did not know, the fact remains that Japan deliberately planned and executed a surprise attack, and it was their attack that plunged the two nations into open war. The attack was a tactical masterpiece, but a strategic blunder of amazing proportions in uniting the United States against Japan.
Jonathan Dresner - 2/16/2006
Mr. Oishi is presenting his experiences, opinions, and -- by most standards -- unobjectionable generalizations, most of which are fully corroborated by other evidence, testimony, etc.
If you have a specific problem, you should lay it out, but you're on pretty thin ice, I'd say.
Ralph E. Luker - 2/16/2006
Mr. Diaz, Your claims may or may not be correct, but here you'll have to present some evidence for them if you expect other people to agree with you. It isn't enough to label something as false or a "lie." You need to be able to substantiate your claim. Otherwise, don't make it here.
bobby anthony dias - 2/16/2006
Here is Gene Oishi spreading his false statements about how other people are- grouping them all together as if they were all for him and his family; or, they were all against him and his family. Gene Oishi thinks and acts as if he were some kind of god that is to be believed. I will be watching for his lies on te internet and elsewhere.
Gene Oishi - 12/13/2005
Dear Greg Robinson,
I posted these comments earlier, but probably at wrong site, so here it is again:
Your book on FDR was excellent and I have quoted from it on several occasions in lectures I give on the Japanese American Experience. I am a Nisei who was nine when interned during World War II. My father was a prosperous farmer in Guadalupe, California, and a community leader who was arrested the night after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He thought of himself as a Japanese patriot and expressed his pro-Japan sentiments freely in public speeches. He did not think it necessary to hide his feelings in the years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, which by itself should have shown he was no spy or potential saboteur. He was as surprised as the rest of nation (whether Japan or the United States) by the audacious and, as it turned out, foolish bombing of Pearl Harbor.
We Nisei knew how our parents felt about Japan, even if we ourselves did not know where our loyalties lay. Until Pearl Harbor, most of us were not confronted with the need to make up our minds about such matters. Some older, better educated Nisei did decide early on and formed the Japanese American Citizens League, which was tellingly called “The Loyalty League” in at least one locality. The rest of us did not think in terms of “loyalty,” which comes to the forefront mainly in times of war. If we thought of such things at all, it was in terms of racial and cultural identity. Were we Japanese or were we American? We were both. Our race and all the baggage that attended it would always be Japanese, but our cultural identity became increasingly American as we went through the public schools and were immersed irresistibly in the American popular culture. Our cultural identity, I do not believe, was something most Nisei consciously thought about, nor was it something we needed to think about until December 7, 1941. It was then that we had to decide whether we were American or Japanese in a superimposed political context that ignored the realities of our family histories and our humdrum everyday lives. We were suddenly confronted with accusations that our parents and possibly we ourselves posed a threat to U.S. national security. Military necessity, it was said, required our removal from the West Coast of the United States because of a possibility of a Japanese invasion. Some Nisei, leaders of the Japanese American Citizens League, by this time had become so Americanized that they had become accustomed to seeing themselves through the eyes of the white majority. From this perspective, it was reasonable to suspect all Japanese in America on the basis of their race. During this period of our history, racial prejudice against non-white minorities was viewed not as a fault but as a virtue, as you clearly illustrate in your book through FDR quotes. The problem for assimilated minorities, however, was that they were co-opted into a biased view of themselves, leading some to self-loathing.
Which brings us to the question you raise as to why some Nisei might find comfort in the thought that FDR knew about the impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and let it happen to allow U.S. entry into the war in Europe.
My personal view is that FDR, Cordell Hull, Henry Stimson, George Marshall and the rest of the military high command knew that Japan was about to begin a campaign of military conquest of the oil-rich regions of southeast Asia. It is also my belief that FDR deliberately did nothing to dissuade the Japanese from beginning this campaign — for example, by lifting the oil embargo placed against Japan — because he was eager enter the war in Europe. He surmised accurately that a war in Asia would inevitably allow U.S. entry into the war in Europe, which Hitler foolishly expedited by declaring war on the U.S.!
I do believe, however, that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as a genuine surprise. What has not been sufficiently investigated is why U.S. forces on the Philippines were not better prepared since they were directly in the path of Japan’s southern advance.
All of this, of course, has nothing to do with whether Japanese living on the West Coast of the United States should or should not have been removed and incarcerated. You say there are Nisei who want to believe that FDR by not preventing the attack on Pearl Harbor actually caused the war, which in this convoluted thinking lifts the guilt from Japan and therefore from Japanese Americans as well.
What we need to understand is that Japan was guilty of aggression in Asia which led to the war with the United States, but none of us in America, including my pro-Japan father, had anything to do with it. The question which should concern us is whether there was a military necessity for our incarceration. We now know there was none, which should suffice, the tortured right-wing screed a la Michelle Malkin notwithstanding.
John Alpaugh - 12/12/2005
Mr. Luker, you said "...that action against their civil rights was justified as a function of their biological descent?"
The facts provided by me show actions against civil rights affected more than the ethnic Japanese.
Now you say, "...German Americans did not experience the discrimination in WWII that Japanese Americans did".
That's a heck of a step backwards from your initial comment.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/12/2005
Mr. Alpaugh, This is getting needlessly tedious. It was you, not I, who cited _your_ 1705 German immigrant ancestry as a piece of evidence. My reply to you was that mine was much more recent and, thus, more comparable than yours. My point was that German Americans did not experience the discrimination in WWII that Japanese Americans did. That point remains. You continue to seek reasons why it was acceptable to single out Japanese Americans in ways that German Americans were not treated. If you don't see what that says about you, I do. Please don't try to extend this discussion further.
John Alpaugh - 12/12/2005
Mr. Luker what is the common denominator regarding the internment of ethnic Germans, Italians, Japanese, Hungarians and Romanians?
I know the answer and I know you know the answer, but I want to see if you have the courage to say it.
You being the FOURTH generation of your ethnic German family is not comparable to a FIRST or SECOND generation ethnic Japanese family the vast majority who had moved to the West Coast a maximium of 40 years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In fact there is no comparison to a first or second generation German family under the same circumstances.
You of all people should know the history is bit more complex than that.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/11/2005
My German grandparents were the children of immigrants to this country, so more comparable to the experience of Japanese immigrants than your German ancestors. My point remains -- that we experienced no discrimination because of our ancestry in World War II. Your apologia for discrimination against Japanese immigrants is an embarrassment.
John Alpaugh - 12/11/2005
Probably when my first ethnic German ancestor married my first ethnic English ancestor, Mr Luker.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/11/2005
Mr. Alpaugh, When did you cease to be an "ethnic German"?
William Hopwood - 12/10/2005
Says Jonathan Dresner:
"The most decorated units in WWII were who, again?...Our intelligence divisions were staffed by who? Yeah, Loyal nisei. Thousands of them."
That is a regurgitation of an often repeated claim with regard to the 100/442d, but, as in your case, absent the identifying qualifier. Add "for their SIZE AND LENGTH OF SERVICE" and you've got it right. Around 4,000 served in the 100/442d at its peak strength. Just over 8,000 served in it after replacements. It served in European combat for about one year. It is a shame that the awards of the 100/442d have been so exaggerated by its current fans. It was a crack outfit. To embellish its record for socio/political reasons, and likewise with the record of the some 3,000 Nisei in the Pacific theater military intelligence service, does them both a disservice. That said, however, it does not negate the fact that some 13,000 applications were filed by or on behalf of Nisei for renunciation of their U.S. citizenship. Over 5,000 were processed by war's end. Or,negate the fact that of over 19,000 Nisei males of military age in the relocation centers, only 1200 (6%) volunteered for U.S.military service with only 800 being accepted. Or, that when given an opportunity to do so, over 26% of male Nisei of military age in the centers would not swear an unqualified oath of loyalty to the U.S.
"We could have the McCloy argument again, but you lost so badly last time, it'd be better if we just drop it. The plain reading of the document, the context of the document and dozens, even hundreds, of corroborating documents are against you, Mr. Hopwood."
Mr.Dresner, I'm afraid you have a tendency to blow smoke. An open-minded view clearly reveals that McCloy's statements, taken in total, do not support the claimed importance of Robinson's "newly discovered" off-the-cuff footnote from the bottom of the Patterson memo. McCloy's memo to General Drum and his sworn congressional testimony speak for themselves. I doubt that you can produce any other, let alone, "dozens, even hundreds of corroborating documents" proving that McCloy believed anything other than that military considerations were the primary causes of the evacuation. The late historian Page Smith had it right in his book,"Democracy on Trial," when he wrote. "It was obviously not the case that the decision to relocate was the result of racial attitudes. That these existed in the general public often in virulent form is undeniable. That such attitudes determined the outcome is, on the other hand, entirely deniable...We can only say that it was based on military, not racial coniderations." And Smith added: "Faced with a veritable mountain of documentary material..historians have been limited to nibbling at the edges of the story, often more intent on confirming some a priori thesis than telling the full story."
John Alpaugh - 12/10/2005
There is no denying ethnic Japanese-Americans accumulated medals prior to the 1990s and deservedly so. There is also no denying their extraordinary heroism, although those who served made up a small percentage of all ethnic Japanese males of military age at the time.
I am referring to legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) calling for a review of valor awards made to Asian Americans - a review the conclusion of which was ignored by Senators Akaka, Inoue and President Bill Clinton who proceeded to hand out medals and/or upgrades many years and miles away from the battlefield in complete defiance of American military tradition.
John Alpaugh - 12/10/2005
What I coincidence! My German ancestors sailed into Philadelphia in 1703.
If ethnic Japanese had sailed into San Francisco in 1703 do you still think there would have been a mass evacuation in 1942?
What is the common denominator regarding the internment of ethnic Germans, Italians, Japanese, Romanians and Hungarians?
It's not biology, Mr. Luker.
Greg James Robinson - 12/10/2005
I will restrict myself to the libellous statements about Japanese American soldiers, since they so well demonstrate the basic unreality that characterize the statements of this small circle of revisionists. The accumulations of unit citations, Purple Hearts, and other decorations for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team came long before the 1990s (although the exploits of the MIS translators remained long classified) and their extraordinary heroism was recognized and celebrated, even during the war, by McCloy and Secretary of War Stimson (who were therafter insppired to endorse evacuation claims legislation), and by President Roosevelt himself, who publicly referred to the Japanese American soldiers as "one of the outstanding battalions we have."
Ralph E. Luker - 12/10/2005
Mr. Alpaugh, I don't know about Alan Jacobs' eloquence. I do know that my family and I are of German descent and that we experienced no such discrimination in World War II. Singling out German-Americans was far more common in World War I than it was in World War II.
John Alpaugh - 12/10/2005
A function of their biological descent?
As Art Jacobs, an interned ethnic German-American has eloquently stated:
"German Americans on the east coast and throughout the country were arrested,interned, and in some cases deported. Almost 11,000 German Americans were interned in the U.S. during World War II. Many German Americans sat,worked, played and went to school in the same camps as their Japanese American counterparts.
Furthermore even before the first person was interned, 600,000 Italian Americans and 300,000 German Americans were deprived of their civil
liberties when they (all persons, male and female, age 14 and older) were required to register as "Alien Enemies." This registration entailed photographing, fingerprinting and the issuance of identification cards which the Alien Enemies had to have on their possession at all times. In additiont hey were forbidden: to fly; to leave their neighborhoods; to possess cameras, short-wave radio receivers, and firearms. Finally, these persons were required to report any change of employment or address to the Department of Justice."
Is Jacob's history also a "function of his biological descent"?
John Alpaugh - 12/10/2005
Bill Hopwood can respond for himself but I couldn't help but jump in for a second.
As you should know Jonathan, the "most decorated unit in WWII" didn't become so until the 1990s after Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka submitted legislation and Bill Clinton started handing out medals like candy canes many years and miles away from the battlefields in complete defiance of American military tradition.
Even so you must be aware the Smithsonian was forced to make corrections reagarding the inflated medal counts in their now defunct Japanese-American exibit that was partially funded by a known Japanese right winger who spent time in Sugamo Prison.
Nisei were involved in interrogation of POWs and translation of documents or battlefield communications, but you should know they were not allowed access to cryptoanalyis for national security reasons. To say Nisei shortened the war by ten years is another myth.
You also fail to ackowlege the thousands of Nisei who chose to sit the war out or openly support the enemy.
One more, regarding the McCloy memo - is it so difficult to acknowledge that resentment towards Japanese existed in California AND intelligence indicating fifth-column activity among ethnic Japanese also existed?
Why only one or the other?
Jonathan Dresner - 12/10/2005
Very few Japanese-Americans renounced their Japanese citizenship, as you well know. Compared to the thousands who renounced their U.S.citizenship to fight for Japan, doesn't that tell you something?
Hmmm. The most decorated units in WWII were who, again? Our intelligence divisions were staffed by who? Yeah, Loyal nisei. Thousands of them. At least pretend to be a bit balanced.
We could have the McCloy argument again, but you lost so badly last time, it'd be better if we just drop it. The plain reading of the document, the context of the document and dozens, even hundreds, of corroborating documents are against you, Mr. Hopwood.
William Hopwood - 12/10/2005
Come,come now,professor, whose in denial? You don't acknowledge that a war existed. As for dual citizenships which are unsought, a citizenship can be renounced. Very few Japanese-Americans renounced their Japanese citizenship, as you well know. Compared to the thousands who renounced their U.S.citizenship to fight for Japan, doesn't that tell you something?
And ah, yes, Hawaii. You forgot to mention martial law. The movement of everybody in Hawaii was severly restricted and civil rights suspended, a course of action which on the U.S. West Coast would have crippled war production. And, I've news for you about enemy aliens. They don't have civil rights. Now, the orphans and babies. Would you have preferred that they be left on the streets to fend for themselves. They received excellent care, probably better in many cases than they had previously. Lastly, as for McCloy. I'm afraid you've hypnotized yourself with that "newly discovered" memo to Patterson. You seem to ignore all of the other comments to the contrary by McCloy because they don't support your agenda. That's too bad.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/10/2005
No. I don't "confuse race with national origin." It really makes no difference at all what you think they thought. What makes a difference is what they thought. Your whole approach is surprisingly similar to the old South's pro-slavery argument. They were so much better off here than there, etc.
William Hopwood - 12/10/2005
"Do you think it possible that they
intuited that there would be people, like yourself, who would think that, however innocent they might be, that action against their civil rights was justified as a function of their biological descent?"
Oh, I don't think they gave it a thought. You confuse race with national origin. Most of the adults among them had enough sense to understand that they were nationals of a country with which we were at war, and that they were being treated so much better than their own homeland was treating our nationals that they were lucky to be where they were. And let's face it, many of the evacuees had come from a life of hard labor and had never had it so good. In fact when the war was over the JACL gave a testimonial dinner in New York in honor of the Director of the War Relocation Authority, Dillon Myer, presenting him with a scroll which commended him as "champion of human rights and common decency whose courageous and inspired leadership...aided materially in restoring faith and conviction in the American way to...Americans of Japanese descent and their resident alien parents."
"Well, gee, that sort of puts a different light on things, doesn't it?"
Yes, it does.
Greg James Robinson - 12/10/2005
Actually, Hopwood's argument is a fine example of the will to believe, since he seems to be unwilling or unable to see any of the racial bias that surrounded the decision to remove an entire population from their homes. He takes refuge, instead, in various canards that it is tiresome to refute, like that of "dual citizenship"--a dual citizenship unsought, as purely nominal as any other dual citizenship, and in thousands of cases specifically renounced because of just such bogeys.
And where is a sense of proportion? In Canada, where the Army and RCMP insisted there was no military peril from Japan, people of Japanese ancestry in British Columbia were rounded up and confined nonetheless. In Hawaii, which had been attacked and where where the danger was, if anything, more immediate, there was no mass roundup. We now know, too, that even Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy recognized at the time that Japanese Americans were primarily removed, not for military reasons, but because of the demands of white Californians. But then, I am still staggered by the beginning of Hopwood's comment, that two-thirds of adults who were stripped of their rights were Japanese aliens. Does this mean that the children--including the orphans and babies who were forced into camps because of their Japanese "blood"--who represented the majority of those the government confined without trial do not count?
William Hopwood - 12/10/2005
"Bunk. It is well documented that the Japanese consulate led the Japanese government to believe that it had made contacts pursuant to perhaps developing something like an intelligence network but that no actual intelligence or network ever came of it."
Perhaps you might wish to cite credible documentation showing that "no actual intelligence or network ever came of it." Meanwhile, here are a couple of references which should prove enlightening to latter-day disbelievers.
1.Office of Naval Intelligence memorandum for the Chief of Naval Operations, Feb 12, 1941,"Japanese Espionage Organization in the United States," which suggests that the information therein be brought to the attention of the President and stating that the Japanese government had decided to strengthen its intelligence network by, among other moves to employ "Nisei Japanese and Japanese resident nationals" using extreme caution in doing so.
2. The Tachibana case (March 1941) about which Peter Irons' wrote in his "Justice at War":
"...There was no question that Tachibana headed an espionage ring on the West Coast that enlisted a number of Japanese Americans, both aliens and citizens (sic), nor that the government knew the identities of its members..."
3. Military Intelligence Div. 336.8, Honolulu, 14 October 1941. "Japanese Ex-Service Men's Organization" which reports on two Japanese ex-military member groups active in the U.S. with 7200 members, stating in part: "...these two organizations have pledged to do sabotage (railroads and harbors)in the states mentioned (California, Washington, Oregon, and Utah) in time of emergency. Similar organizations are in Hawaii. Sixty-nine local units of these two organizations are said to be carrying on activities."
4. U.S.Army MID Information Bulletin No.6 of Jan.21, 1942,titled "Japanese Espionage," forwarded to Ass't SecWar John J. McCloy by Brig. General Mark J. Clark,then Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S.Army, which, among its conclusions states: "Their espionage net containing Japanese aliens, first and second generation Japanese and other nationals is now thoroughly organized and working underground."
"...Japanese issei were banned from obtaining citizenship as a result of blatantly racist US exclusions (and thus, did not have the option taken by so many German and Italian immigrants),"
But how many would have become citizens if they could have? We don't know, do we? But perhaps we can get an idea of how important it was to them by the number of Issei who actually took advantage of the privilege when it became available to them in 1952. According to the 1940 census there were 84,658 Issei in the U.S. and Hawaii at that time. In 1960 there were 101,656. An INS report "Persons Naturalized by Former Allegiance" indicates that between 1952 and 1960 only 32% of Japanese-born persons in the U.S.in 1960 had become naturalized. Of course we also don't know how many of the 1940 group survived and how many additional Issei (war brides?)emigrated between war's end and 1960. Nevertheless, if only 32% bothered to naturalize between 1952 and 1960 wouldn't that seem to indicate lack of a burning desire among Issei to become U.S. citizens? Why would the urge have been any greater in 1940?
"...and the number of kibei who had served in the Japanese military ("some" you said) was perhaps in the hundreds, not tens of thousands."
Oh, I believe it was many more than "hundreds." I've seen estimates of more than 10,000 Kibei who were on the West Coast in 1941. Those of military age holding Japanese citizenship, which was most of them, had to be registered in the Japanese military reserves. As an aside, it is also credibly estimated that between 5 and 7,000 (of approx 15-20,000 Nisei in Japan at the time of Pearl Harbor) actually served in the Japanese armed forces fighting against the U.S. during wWII. Two members of the Japanese surrender team who flew to Manila to arrange the formalities connected with the Japanese surrender were Nisei--one, George Shuichi Mizota, was secretary to Japanese Navy Minister Misumasa Yohnai. Five Nisei went down with the Japanese battleship "Yamato" and two other Nisei were aboard the cruiser "Yahagi" which also went down, one of the Nisei survived.
Jonathan Dresner - 12/10/2005
it is well-documented by the Japanese government itself (Magic intercepts), and further supported by military intelligence reports, that a significant number of Issei and Nisei were working as espionage agents (or otherwise) for the Japanese government in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor.
Bunk. It is well documented that the Japanese consulate led the Japanese government to believe that it had made contacts pursuant to perhaps developing something like an intelligence network but that no actual intelligence or network ever came of it.
The rest of it is sheer tap-dancing: Japanese issei were banned from obtaining citizenship as a result of blatantly racist US exclusions (and thus, did not have the option taken by so many German and Italian immigrants), and the number of kibei who had served in the Japanese military ("some" you said) was perhaps in the hundreds, not tens of thousands.
The logical fallacies of your conclusion are fascinating in their boldness, but I have neither the time nor inclination to unravel them at the moment.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/9/2005
Do you think it possible that they intuited that there would be people, like yourself, who would think that, however innocent they might be, that action against their civil rights was justified as a function of their biological descent? Well, gee, that sort of puts a different light on things, doesn't it?
William Hopwood - 12/9/2005
"I was studying Japanese Americans, after all, not Japanese, and the Nisei played no role in Pearl Harbor..."
Those familiar with Prof. Robinson's
"By Order of the President" will note that when he refers to Japanese Americans in the context of World war II, he apparently includes in that term both Issei (resident alien Japanese) and Nisei (U.S.citizens.) The term "Japanese American" used in this all-inclusive way is thus misleading. Two-thirds of the *adults* who were evacuated from West Coast military zones after Pearl Harbor were Issei, Japanese nationals and enemy aliens subject to detention under long-standing law. As for the Nisei, it should be noted that at the time, most over the age of 17 also held Japanese citizenship, some 20,000 having been partially educated in Japan, some holding reserve status in the Japanese armed forces. Although the Nisei (as a group) may have played no *direct* role in Pearl Harbor, it is well-documented by the Japanese government itself (Magic intercepts), and further supported by military intelligence reports, that a significant number of Issei and Nisei were working as espionage agents (or otherwise) for the Japanese government in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor.
"After a while, it dawned on me why so many Japanese Americans were asking the question: they still felt stigmatized by Japan's surprise attack. I realized, and they thought—either consciously or unconsciously-- that if it could be shown that Roosevelt had let the attack go on, that meant Japan was innocent, and that got them all off the hook.
How can "so many 'Japanese Americans'" wanting to believe such a myth in order to excuse Japan for its attack on the U.S. be interpreted by anyone as a confirmation of their loyalty to the U.S.?
Jonathan Dresner - 12/7/2005
That Japan planned and executed a surprise attack is well-established. That it was not, fundamentally, a surprise to Roosevelt and his strategic advisors is also pretty well established. They knew when they imposed the final trade embargoes on Japan that a violent response would likely come, because Japan had consistently refused to consider backing away from its (overextended and vicious) position in China and aggressive posture towards SE Asia.
You're right, of course, that the Japanese American community was innocent in the attack and that their mistreatment owed a great deal to overreaction to the attack (overreaction that was exploited by the administration to finally put the US on a full-bore war footing with regard to Germany).
The evidence that Roosevelt knew about the plan to attack Pearl Harbor is a mirage; the evidence that Roosevelt expected, even anticipated, a Japanese attack and that Pearl Harbor was a likely first strike target, however, is pretty strong. Which means that Roosevelt was something of a "manipulator" (in response to intense provocation and need), which nonetheless excuses Japan's actions not a bit.