Polemics & Exchanges

On the Kibei

I have one small addition to Roger D. McGrath’s excellent piece, “You Have to Commit” (Views, April).

The kibei (American-born Japanese educated in Japan before World War II) and other Japanese-Americans involved in the Hokoku Seinen Dan not only regularly demonstrated at the Tule Lake Segregation Center in support of the emperor and the empire but actively petitioned the U.S. government to allow them to return to Japan with the explicit intent of joining the fight against the United States.

As John L. Burling stated in a January 10, 1945, letter replying to these petitions on behalf of the attorney general: “In the first place, the members of the Hokoku Seinen Dan are almost all American Citizens. . . . Yet in time of war these young men, who were born in this country, have betrayed it and have demonstrated their loyalty to the enemy.  They are not patriots, but traitors. . . .  [T]hey are a disgrace and a shame to their brother Japanese-Americans who have proved with their blood that they understand what it means to be loyal to the country of one’s birth.”

It is hard to imagine the chaos that would have reigned on the West Coast had several thousand fanatics been allowed to run loose while the United States was taking tens of thousands of casualties in the Philippines,...

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