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Shirakawa. Shirakawa - Part 3 -. S TORIES FROM A P ACIFIC N ORTHWEST J APANESE A MERICAN C OMMUNITY. Shirakawa. 6. WAR!. Shirakawa. On December 7, 1941, Japanese military forces sprang a massive air attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Shirakawa.

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Shirakawa
Shirakawa

  • Shirakawa

  • - Part 3 -

STORIES FROM A

PACIFIC NORTHWEST

JAPANESE AMERICAN COMMUNITY


Shirakawa1
Shirakawa

  • 6. WAR!


Shirakawa2
Shirakawa

  • On December 7, 1941,

  • Japanese military forces sprang

  • a massive air attack

  • on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.


Shirakawa3
Shirakawa

  • America was suddenly and totally involved

  • in World War II.


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Shirakawa

  • Dozens of Issei community leaders on the West Coast, like Mat Iseri and E.K. Saito, were arrested by the FBI.

  • They had done nothing wrong. But some government officials thought Japanese leaders might turn against America and help their one-time homeland.

Courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada

Courtesy of Hatsume Murakami Sao


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Shirakawa

  • Both Mr. Iseri and Mr. Saito

  • had come to the US as very young men.

  • Both had spend about two-thirds of their lives

  • living and working and raising families here.


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Shirakawa

  • Tom Iseri, still the Northwest District Chairman of the JACL, wrote to newspapers, asking for calm and understanding about Japanese American loyalty to the US.

Courtesy WRVM Newspaper Collection


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Shirakawa

  • His brother, Mike,

  • and many other Nisei

  • hurried to sign up for

  • the US Army.

  • At first, the military

  • didn’t know

  • what to do with them.

Courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada


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Shirakawa

  • The country was worried about Japanese Americans. Frightened people expressed many strong feelings.


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Shirakawa

  • But the country still worried about Japanese Americans.Frightened people expressed many strong feelings.

  • Those who had opposed the Nikkei for so long spoke out more loudly than anyone else, spreading the word that anyone with Japanese blood must surely be an enemy.

Both courtesy of NARA


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Shirakawa

  • Even the famous Dr. Seuss stood against everyone Japanese—the enemy nation and American Nikkei alike.

Courtesy WRVM Newspaper Collection


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Shirakawa

  • Even the famous Dr. Seuss stood against everyone Japanese—the enemy nation and American Nikkei alike.

  • His cartoons portrayed

  • them all as sneering,

  • look-alike terrorists.


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Shirakawa

  • Never allowed to become American citizens, Issei like

  • Mat and Kisa knew they would be watched like enemies.

Courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada


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Shirakawa

  • Never allowed to become American citizens, Issei like

  • Mat and Kisa knew they would be watched like enemies.

  • But what about their American children? Would Tom, Mike, Mae and the rest still be able to live like other Americans?

Courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada


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Shirakawa

  • The final answer astonished them.

  • On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt gave national security leaders emergency powers to decide who might be dangerous. He also directed them to move those they considered dangerous away from possible war zones.

Courtesy LOC


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Shirakawa

  • The US Army General in charge of defending

  • the Western States decided that the Issei and all of

  • their descendants had to move away from the West Coast.

  • A lot of government leaders disagreed with him, but they had given him the power to order what he wanted.

Courtesy US Army


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Shirakawa

  • During World War II, only Japanese American citizens

  • received this kind of full-group treatment in the USA.

  • The official racial discrimination of their country was shocking for young Nisei who grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance and studying the Constitution in school.

Courtesy NARA #210-G-A78


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Shirakawa

  • Soon these gloomy signs were posted all around the valley.

Courtesy WRVM Natsuhara Family Collection


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Shirakawa

  • Soon these gloomy signs were posted all around the valley.

  • The orders were aimed at “all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien” – a tricky way to include “American citizens” without saying so.

Courtesy WRVM Natsuhara Family Collection


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  • Every West Coast Nikkei had to register with the government, and then was assigned a family number . . .

  • and issued identity tags.

Courtesy NARA #210-G-A573

Courtesy WRVM Matsuda Family Collection


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Shirakawa

  • The Iseri family, Hirabayashis,

  • Natsuharas, Hikidas, and all

  • their Nikkei neighbors sold or

  • stored their things.

  • They locked their businesses,

  • and packed their bags

  • for travel to inland

  • detention camps.

Courtesy LOC #8c24383u

Courtesy Densho


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Shirakawa

  • It was a sad time for everyone.

  • For Japanese American kids,

  • it was totally confusing.

  • When the time chosen for them to leave came,

  • all Nikkei felt upset by what was happening to them.

Courtesy LOC #8a31197u

Courtesy LOC #8a31174u


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  • But the only Nisei in Washington State to protest openly against it was Gordon Hirabayashi, from Thomas.

  • When the war started,

  • he was a student living in Seattle.

Courtesy of Maxie Shimojima Sugai


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Shirakawa

  • The authorities told him he had to obey their curfew and relocation orders like everyone else.

  • Gordon said doing so

  • just because of his

  • Japanese ancestry would

  • disregard the US Constitution,

  • which would be doing wrong.

  • They would have to arrest him and try him in a court.

Courtesy 1940 Tyee and UW Special Collections


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Shirakawa

  • His famous case was taken all the way to the US Supreme Court. But he lost! The judges said the Constitution didn’t allow him to ignore the orders during a wartime crisis.

  • It took more than 40 years before Gordon’s case was reviewed and his conviction of crimes was erased.

Courtesy Densho #pd-i119-00045 Minidoka Irrigator Collection


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Shirakawa

  • As for the rest of the White River Valley Nikkei,

  • they boarded trains in Auburn or Renton

  • and were taken away, guarded by armed soldiers . . .

Courtesy Tacoma Public Library


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Shirakawa

  • . . . to “assembly center” camps like this one in California.

Courtesy LOC #3c37821v


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Shirakawa

  • After a few months, they packed again and were taken to official detention camps they called “relocation centers”. . .

  • . . . like this one – Tule Lake in California.

Courtesy Bureau of Reclamation


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Shirakawa

  • Life for White River Valley Nikkei and their entire community was changed forever.

Courtesy NARA #210-G-D207


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Shirakawa

  • They made the best of their new lives, and did what they could to get along and help each other out.

  • Some people were angry or depressed.

  • Others kept looking for new opportunities,

  • new things to learn, new ways to pass the time.

Courtesy NARA #210-G-A631 (l) & Densho #pd-p13-00041 Mamiya Family Collection (r)


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Shirakawa

  • But kept behind a fence, it was impossible for the Nisei to best serve their country when it most needed their help.

Courtesy NARA #210-G-H444


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Shirakawa

  • When the chance opened up, many more Nisei joined the armed forces, proving their loyalty to America.

  • The bravery of their units became famous.

Courtesy Densho #pd-i114-00089 Seattle Nisei Veterans Collection


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Shirakawa

  • Some soldiers, like Mike Iseri and Bill Taketa,

  • sacrificed everything.

  • The Kent newspaper listed their names among those who died in combat.

Courtesy WRVM Newspaper Collection and Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee (photos)


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Shirakawa

  • 7. Return


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Shirakawa

  • A lot of White River Valley folks back home did not want

  • their former Japanese

  • American neighbors

  • to return after the war.

  • Their sacrifices did

  • not matter to you

  • if your heart was

  • bitter.

  • In 1943, the

  • Mayor of Kent

  • had signs printed

  • to show his

  • point of view.

Courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada


Shirakawa35
Shirakawa

  • Stores in Kent and Auburn were asked to post the signs.

  • This Kent barber

  • was glad

  • to do it.

  • The story appeared

  • in newspapers and

  • inTime magazine.

Courtesy Densho #pd-i73-00001 Bettmann Archive / Corbis Collection #BEO71994


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Shirakawa

  • The story appeared

  • in newspapers and

  • inTime magazine.

  • Over 300 Nikkei families had been taken from the valley, but only about 25 families returned after the war.

Courtesy Densho #pd-i36-00007 MOHAI Collection (Seattle P-I Collection #PI-28084)


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  • Mat and Kisa Iseri’s family

  • found a welcome in the Eastern

  • Oregon town of Ontario.

  • Most of their large family

  • settled there.

  • But their daughter, Mae,

  • returned to the White River Valley.

  • She had married Maki Yamada early in the war.

Both Courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada


Shirakawa38
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  • Maki was overseas in the US Army, so Mae and her kids moved back to the old Iseri family home.

  • Neighbors who already knew Mae welcomed them back. The rest soon realized that all Americans have basic rights, no matter where their ancestors came from.

Courtesy of Doug Yamada


Shirakawa39
Shirakawa

  • Armed

  • with decency and

  • the work standards their parents taught,

  • White River Valley Nikkei rebuilt their lives.

  • Once again they won the full respect of their neighbors.


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Shirakawa

  • Mat Iseri passed away in Ontario, Oregon in1961.

  • Kisa lived on. When she turned 100, the city awarded her and the whole Iseri family its “Outstanding Citizen Award.”

Courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada


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Shirakawa

  • In 1988, America finally admitted that it had done wrong toward Japanese Americans during World War II.

  • The US decided to make redress payments

  • to every relocation camp survivor.

  • Many Issei, like Mat Iseri,

  • had already died.

Courtesy Densho #pd-p179-00248 Nakamura Family Collection


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  • However, Kisa went to Washington, DC to take part in

  • the very first redress payment ceremony.

  • It was October 9, 1990, and she was 102 years old.

  • Kisa also received this apology signed by the President.

Both courtesy of Mae Iseri Yamada


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Shirakawa

  • About a year later, Kisa passed away.

  • She had survived her husband

  • and 7 of her 12 children.

Page from The Boise Statesman, March 21, 1988


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Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • Mae kept books of pictures and a mind full of memories,

  • sharing them with anyone who would listen.

Stan Flewelling


Shirakawa45
Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • She joined the White River Valley Historical Society and

  • was an honorary board member there until her last days.

Barbara Campbell


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Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • She talked with school kids whenever she could . . .

Stan Flewelling


Shirakawa47
Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • . . . and helped organize reunions of her childhood friends from Thomas Grade School.

Stan Flewelling


Shirakawa48
Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • She visited museums and libraries in Montana,

  • where her dad, Mat, had first been locked up . . .

Stan Flewelling


Shirakawa49
Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • . . . and the National Archives in Washington, DC, where she looked up records about her family during the War . . .

Stan Flewelling


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Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • . . . and her brother Mike’s Army service in Europe

  • . . . and his death in France.

Courtesy Densho #pd-p105-00020 Tsubota Family Collection (Purple Heart) & Mae Iseri Yamada


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Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • She even visited France and talked to people who remembered the bravery of Japanese American soldiers.

Courtesy of Lu Yamada Wiley


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Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • She visited Mike’s grave in Seattle every Memorial Day.

Both by Stan Flewelling


Shirakawa53
Shirakawa

  • Mae Iseri Yamada raised her family in Kent and Auburn.

  • She had many good friends and was always full of energy.

  • In 2006, Mae was elected the “Pioneer Queen” of Auburn

  • and was crowned by the Mayor.

Stan Flewelling


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  • She passed away in November 2010 at age 92.

  • Her story will stay alive as long as she is remembered.

Courtesy Auburn Senior Center


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  • She passed away in November 2010 at age 92.

  • Her story will stay alive as long as she is remembered.

  • This presentation is dedicated to the memory of

  • Mae Iseri Yamada and her whole family.


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Shirakawa

  • Credits:

  • Thanks to Pat Filer and Historylink.org for giving the Shirakawa story a new chance at life.

  • Thanks also to the many people and organizations who have shared generously from their photo and document collections. Here are some of the abbreviations for historical archives used in this presentation:

  • WRVM: White River Valley Museum (Auburn, WA)

  • DENSHO: Densho, The Japanese American Legacy Project (Seattle, WA)

  • MOHAI: Museum of History and Industry (Seattle, WA)

  • LOC: Library of Congress (Washington, DC)

  • NARA: National Archives and Records Administration (Washington, DC and College Park, MD)


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  • THE END


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