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


Full Text Newspaper ArticleWatsonville Register-Pajaronian. June 12, 1945. p. 5

OVERSEAS OFFICER'S VIEW ON NISEIS
[Editorial]

by MATEO LETTUNICH

To the Editor:
I take the liberty of addressing this letter to you, in the hope that you will print it, because the subject to which it is devoted is a problem which disturbs me as well as many others who are presently overseas in the armed forces.

During the past six or seven decades our fertile valley has seen the making of thousands of Americans. That is, people came here from many countries of the world - England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, China, Japan, Ireland, among them - and made their homes; then, for the most part, the melting pot that is the United States made them Americans. And it can be truly said that they lived in harmony as good neighbors.

However, when the United States was compelled to engage the axis powers in the present war, the status of some of them changed. Descendents of parents whose native countries were now axis powers once again stood apart. In the cases of Americans of German and Italian descent it was generally assumed that they were as loyally American as their neighbors who happened to have come from neutral or co-belligerent countries. In the case of the Japanese-Americans and Nisei in California, it was decided by higher authority that they should be temporarily removed from the Pacific coastal areas. Subsequently they were divided into those who, because of their actions in aid of Japan, were considered disloyal to this country; those who, though they had committed no disloyal acts, preferred allegiance to Japan, and await only to be returned there; and finally, the vast number of them, especially Nisei, to whom the United States, and more particularly, the Pacific coast, is the home of their allegiance.

It is the treatment of these latter Japanese-Americans and Nisei, who are now beginning to return to the homes where they were once honored members of our communities, that is the problem whereof I write. For, if one is to believe the newspapers and national magazines, in many cases these people are not being allowed to return with the realization that their absence was a temporary measure thought wise by higher authority, and which in no way reflects upon them as individuals. Rather, veterans' organizations have allowed themselves to pass discriminatory measures concerning them, and citizens' committees have discussed resolutions to prohibit their proper re-entry into the life of the community. And, as is usual, any attempt to modify these harsh and irrational measures have been met with the timeworn, but effective, epithet of the uninformed, "Communism, eh!" The people of California have not discriminated against those of Italian descent living amongst them - nor should they. They have not trafficked in hate in regard to those of German descent - nor should they. Shall they fall into both these vices in regard to the loyal Japanese-Americans and Nisei?

Five minutes' view of what was once a prosperous and peaceful village - be it in France or in Germany - should be enough to convince anyone that the price paid for discrimination and hate against the guilty is almost unbearably heavy. How much more shameful it is when the same discrimination and hate is kept alive to afflict the innocent.

MATEO LETTUNICH
Captain, Air Corps,
c/o Post-Master,
New York City, N.Y.

Copyrighted by the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. Reproduced by permission.