Coming Home Was Not Easy for Japanese American Veterans

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Discrimination and prejudice were nothing new to the people of Japanese heritage who lived in the United States in the early and mid 1900's. Even though most of them had been forcibly removed from their West Coast homes in California, Oregon, and Washington after the start of World War II and incarcerated in hastily constructed camps in remote and desolate areas of the country, hatred remained.

After President Harry S. Truman became President, there is information that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote him letters telling him about the discrimination shown by white vigilantes against some of the Issei (immigrants from Japan) and the Nisei (American children born of Japanese immigrant parents). Truman was reportedly shocked by the reports and thought the actions were disgraceful. He said, "It certainly makes me ashamed."

The Nisei soldiers who had volunteered and been drafted for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans, faught lavishly and bravely on the European front. They had something to prove. There were many casualties with a large number of them becoming wounded or dying in battle.

When these young men returned home either for furloughs or after the war had ended, they faced some of the same hatred and prejudice, which they had encountered before they left to fight for their country.

Some reported that basic services were denied to them. They were refused rides in taxis and told to go back where they came from, even while they were wearing a US Army uniform. Some barbers would not cut their hair. They were called names and given racial slurs. They were even spat upon. It could not have been easy after they had risked their lives to protect the freedoms of their country.

President Truman offered his support to the efforts of the Department of the Interior to secure evacuation claims legislation to partially compensate those who were displaced and put in the camps which included the families of many of the soldiers. Although the bills were defeated, Truman supported laws barring discrimination based on race. He called for inquiry into the wartime confinement policy against the people of Japanese heritage, which a report stated was "the most striking mass interference since slavery with the right to physical freedom."

War had been terrible, but coming home was not easy for the Japanese American soldiers. Although they were understandably glad that the war was over, big challenges awaited them. Many came with huge uncertainties as their families had been raised from their homes. Yet they persevered, and decades later the community has benefitted from their great sacrifices and patriotism.

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Source by Irene Mori

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