Santa Cruz County History - Executive Order 9066 and the Residents of Santa Cruz County



Military Service
by Rechs Ann Pedersen

"...I only wish I could get those bigots, those hate mongers - those super patriots here to see what Hell war is. Here in the front we're respected as fellow Americans fighting for the same cause and we're proud as hell to be in there pitching - doing our share of the work. My only hope is that I'll be able to go back just to see if it's all worthwhile."
--Letter from Harry F. Madokoro, who was a Japanese American from Santa Cruz County and a soldier in the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was killed in action in Italy in August 1943 and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. September 23, 1944, p 3. Full Text

Hollywood Legion Tiff on Jap Issue
Hollywood (UP) - World War II veterans in Hollywood Post 591 were threatened Thursday with withdrawal of their American Legion charter for admitting to membership Harley M. Oka, honorably-discharged Japanese-American soldier. ...Conceding that any honorably discharged veteran is entitled to American Legion membership, Horton criticized the post particularly for publicizing their action without official permission and condemning the Hood River, Ore., Post which removed Japanese-American soldiers' names from its roll of honor. Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. January 25, 1945. p. 8.


At the start of the War, Italian Americans and Japanese Americans were serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Further enlistments of Japanese Americans were blocked on January 5, 1942, when the War Department classified draft-age Japanese Americans as enemy aliens. Nearly all Japanese Americans who had already volunteered for the Armed Forces were discharged and reclassified, first as 4-F (physically not fit for service) and then as 4-C (enemy aliens). 1

Ted Kamo at Camp Roberts
Ted Kamo at Camp Roberts. He finished
his military training a few days before
the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In first few months of 1942, Public Proclamations issued by the Western Defense Command ordered the evacuation of Axis aliens and Japanese Americans out of the military area that included Santa Cruz County. Having a child in the Service provided a means of avoiding evacuation--but only for Germans and Italians.

"A progressive evacuation of the five classes of aliens and citizens:

1. Those suspected of sabotage or subversive activity
2. Japanese aliens
3. Japanese-Americans
4. German aliens
5.Italian aliens.

German and Italian aliens who have children in the Armed Forces of the United States probably will not be required to move."--(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 6, 1942. p.1)

The Japanese American community urged the government to give it a chance to prove its loyalty by allowing service in the military.2 Many Nisei welcomed the draft, although a few felt that the draft was another humiliation and 315 young men refused to be inducted. 3 The position of one young man was carried in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, "I have lost faith completely in the real sincerity of governmental and general societal actions concerning the Japanese, whether civilian Japanese or Japanese in the army of the United States." (Complete letter in Draft Boards have Problem in Reclassification of Japanese, Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. April 8, 1944.)

In June 1942 the 100th Infantry Battalion was created and consisted almost entirely of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. Six months later, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was established by Presidential decree and included Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland. The achievements of the 442nd were impressive, with "18,143 medals for valor, including 1 medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1 Distinguished Service Medal, 588 Silver Stars, 5,200 Bronze Stars, and 9,486 Purple Hearts." 2

Along with stories of the opposition to the release and return of Japanese and Japanese Americans to the West Coast, the local papers carried news about the accomplishments and heroism of the 442nd. Whether or not it was true in Santa Cruz County, the head of the War Relocation Authority said that heroism of the Nisei softened the opposition to the return of the Japanese and Japanese Americans to their former homes.

October 3, 1944:

WRA CHIEF SAYS HEROISM OF NISEI IN ITALY SOFTENING OPPOSITION TO JAPS RETURN
"In the past several months the temper of public opinion on this issue has been changing rapidly and unmistakably," Myer said. "Some private organizations that formerly advocated total exclusion and mass deportation of Japanese-Americans have softened and modified their attitudes."This change has been brought about, I am convinced, primarily by the magnificent combat record of Japanese-American boys in the uniform of the U.S. army." (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. October 3, 1944, p 3.Full-Text)

Newspapers also carried news of the Japanese American soldiers who had once lived in Santa Cruz County:

May 29, 1944:

LETTER FROM JAPANESE AMERICAN IN SERVICE
...a former Japanese resident of Watsonville (now in the service)..."...I have been serving my country with pride and honor for three years now, and during that time I have undergone a severe test of prejudice and discrimination because of my physical appearance and characteristics. For us Japanese-Americans, we have two battles to win, the first one is against our enemy abroad and the second one is the fight for our rights and pursuit of happiness..."I also pray that the people of Watsonville and elsewhere may understand us Niseis in the armed forces of the U.S. We serve our country, and fight for one cause and determination, and that is to preserve our freedom of rights and liberty..." (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. May 29, 1944, p 6.Full-Text)

August 8, 1944:

FOUR FORMER LOCAL JAPANESE-AMERICANS LEAVE POSTON FOR ARMY
Four former residents of Watsonville were among 74 Japanese-Americans leaving here Friday for Fort Douglas, Utah, for entry into the United States Army. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. August 8, 1944, p 6. Full-Text)

September 19, 1944:

OTSUKI
Cpl. Issie Otsuki, the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. K. Otsuki, formerly of the Live Oak district, writes from somewhere in Italy that he had been there for about two months. Before going overseas Cpl. Otsuki trained at Camp Crowder, Mo. and Camp Shelby, Miss. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. Sept member 19, 1944. p. 8.)

November 15, 1944

4 MORE FORMER LOCAL BOYS ENTER SERVICE
POSTON, -Ariz. (Special) - Hideo Akiyama, son of Utaro Akiyama, Hiroto George Tanaka, son of Mrs. Kou Tanaka, and Tom Tadaji Murakami, son of Mr. and Mrs. Kumajiro Murakami, all formerly of Watsonville, were among 57 boys who left the Poston Relocation center for active duty in the United States army early this month. Tanaka and Murakami graduated from Watsonville High school and Akiyama from Poston High. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 15, 1944, p 4.)

November 19, 1944:

TAMAKI IWANAGA JOINS ARMY FROM RELOCATION CENTER
Poston, Ariz. Tamaki Tom Iwanaga, son of Mr. and Mrs. Kameki Iwanaga and formerly of Santa Cruz, Calif., was among the 57 boys who received an elaborate send-off as they left the Colorado River relocation center today to begin active duty in the United States Army at Fort Douglas, Utah. Iwanaga attended Santa Cruz high school prior to evacuation and graduated from Poston high school in 1943. Also serving in the Army at the present time are two brothers, Cpl. Sam Iwanaga at Fort Snelling, Minn., and Pvt. Noby Iwanaga at Camp Barkley, Texas.

November 24, 1944:

HENRY IZUMIZAKI KILLED IN ACTION
PFC Henry S. Izumizaki, 23, former resident of Watsonville and a graduate of Watsonville High school in 1940, was killed in action in France on Nov. 2 while fighting with the 442nd combat regiment. ... His death increases the number of gold stars on the Poston center service flag to 11....His brother, PFC James Izumizaki, was reported wounded in France on Oct. 17. Another brother, Pvt. Arthur is stationed at Camp Blanding, Fla. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 24, 1944, p 1.Full-Text)

February 13, 1945:

SHIGETSUGI MORIMUNE AGAIN WOUNDED IN ACTION IN FRANCE
POSTON, Ariz. (Special) - PFC Shigetsugi Morimune, former resident of Watsonville, Calif., was wounded in action Jan. 17, while fighting with the 442nd infantry in France, ... PFC Morimune already holds the Purple Heart decoration for wounds received in France last October.A graduate of Watsonville Union High school in 1939, PFC Morimune, 23, volunteered for army duty and was inducted into service March 4, 1944 at Poston. ... A brother, Pvt. Harry Morimune entered the army from Poston last November. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 13, 1945 p 3.)

February 14, 1945:

3 LOCAL NISEI GET COMBAT INFANTRYMAN'S BADGE IN FRANCE
6TH ARMY GROUP, FRANCE (Special to Register-Pajaronian) - One hundred and forty American soldiers of Japanese ancestry from California, now with the 442nd Japanese-American combat team, have been awarded the combat infantryman's badge for exemplary conduct in action in the Vosges mountains of eastern France with the 7th Army. ...During their action, they took part in the rescue of the now famous "Lost Battalion" of World War II near Bruyeres, France. Men awarded the combat infantryman's badge include:Watsonville: PFC Toshio Manaba, 356 Ford St.; PFC Kenji Hirokawa, Rt. 3; Pvt. T. Goto, Rt. 3. Salinas: Sgt. Roy Sakasegawa, 141 Lake St. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 14, 1945 p 2.)

February 23, 1945:

TWO LOCAL NISEI GET GOOD CONDUCT MEDALS
SIXTH ARMY GROUP, France (Special to Register-Pajaronian) - Fifty-one American soldiers of Japanese ancestry, with the 442nd Japanese-American combat team, have been awarded the good conduct medal for exemplary conduct during the past year or more in the army. ... Among the soldiers who were awarded the good conduct medal are: From Watsonville, Calif., PFC James Izumizaki, Cpl. George N. Matsumoto. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 23, 1945 p 5.)

July 30, 1945:

WATSONVILLE NISEI RETURNING FROM ITALY
WITH THE FIFTH ARMY Italy (Special to Register-Pajaronian) - Sgt. Shigara Hirano of Watsonville, Calif., is returning to the United States from the Fifth Army in Italy with an adjusted service rating score of 85....His parents live at 220-3-D, War Relocation center, Poston, Ariz. Watsonville (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. July 30, 1945 p 6.)

September 26, 1945:

SGT. YOSHIO FUJITA AWARDED BRONZE STAR
HQ. TWENTY-FIRST CORPS, SEVENTH ARMY, Germany (Special) - Yoshio Fujita, 28 of Watsonville, Calif., has been awarded the Bronze Star medal for meritorious service with the 522nd field artillery battalion in Italy, France and Germany. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. September 26, 1945 p 1.)

November 6, 1945:

LOCAL NISEIS AT FORT SNELLING LANGUAGE CAMP
M/Sgts. Buddie Nagase and William Waki, graduates of Watsonville High school, are instructors at the Japanese language camp at Fort Snelling, Minn. ...The Fort Snelling school is the only one of its kind in the world and it furnished approximately 4000 highly trained Japanese-American linguists to allied forces in the Pacific theater. ...Among the Pajaro valley niseis trained at the school and then sent to the Pacific area are [T/5's?] Kay Yamauchi, Tadashi Hashimoto, Sateru Takemoto and Toshio Kimoto. [We apologize if any names were misspelled; the copy was difficult to read.--ed.] (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 6, 1945 p 5.)

December 12, 1945:

PFC KIMURA RETURNS TO US FROM ETO
PFC Roy S. Kimura, brother of George Y. Kimura, Rt. 3, Box 103, Watsonville, has returned to the United States after serving with the 90th Infantry division - ... Kimura was a rifleman and scout and has two Bronze Stars, Combat Infantryman's badge, Good Conduct ribbon, American defense ribbon. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. December 12, 1945 p 6.)

After the War, a memorial service was held in Watsonville for local Nisei soldiers.

NISEI SOLDIER MEMORIAL SERVICE SET FOR THURSDAY
Memorial services for Japanese-American soldiers of the U.S. Army who lost their lives in World War II are to be held Thursday morning at 10 o'clock at the Watsonville Pioneer cemetery under the auspices of the Young Buddhist association. Rev. Y. Iwanaga of the Buddhist church will lead the services to which the public is invited. Watsonville soldiers for whom the services will be held include Henry Izumizaki, Harry Madokoro, Konjo Nitta, Charles Fujiki, and Paul Hariuchi, all privates first class. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. May 26, 1946 p. 2)

Footnotes:

  1. Asian American Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. p. 482.
  2. Ibid. Vol. 2. p. 483.
  3. United States Commission on Wartime Relocation. Personal Justice Denied. Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and University of Washington Pr., 1997. p. 246.

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