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Japanese-Americans' Army Service Honored

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  • eugenia_beh
    Japanese-Americans Army Service Honored Sat Sep 25, 4:34 AM ET By MELISSA NELSON, Associated Press Writer LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Leaving their families in barbed
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 25, 2004
      Japanese-Americans' Army Service Honored
      Sat Sep 25, 4:34 AM ET
      By MELISSA NELSON, Associated Press Writer

      LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Leaving their families in barbed wire-encircled
      internment camps, hundreds of Japanese-Americans enlisted in the
      Army to fight in Europe during World War II. Arkansas paid tribute
      to the sacrifice Friday in a four-day event commemorating the
      history of two camps in the southeastern part of the state, the only
      ones in the South. Eight camps were in the West.

      "These guys were special. It is amazing that they would volunteer
      from behind barbed wire," said Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (news, bio,
      voting record), himself a member of Japanese-American 442nd
      Regimental Combat team, the most decorated unit for its size in the
      European Theater.

      More than 120,000 Japanese-Americans were sent from the West Coast
      and Hawaii to 10 internment camps in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
      Between 1942 and 1945, the Arkansas camps — at Jerome and Rohwer —
      held 16,000 detainees.

      Inouye said he had more freedom living under heightened security in
      Hawaii than others forced into the camps. He saw the Rohwer camp for
      the first time in 1943.

      "Rohwer has haunted me. I have always asked myself that if I were in
      that camp, would I have volunteered," Inouye told more than 1,000
      people gathered at Little Rock's MacArthur Military Museum. Inouye
      was on hand Friday to help open a special exhibit on Japanese-
      American World War II military history.

      The event was part of the Life Interrupted National Conference,
      which continues through Sunday.

      Among little-known accomplishments of Japanese-American units in the
      war is the liberation of the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany.
      The 552nd combat unit was operating in advance of Gen. George S.
      Patton's tanks when its soldiers found the camp.

      Inouye said the story was classified by military officials who did
      not want the public to know the role of Japanese-Americans in
      liberating the camp.

      "Can you imagine what the media would have said about concentration
      camp inmates being liberated by inmates of American camps?" he said.

      Hiro Nishikubo left his mother in a California internment camp when
      he enlisted, and went on to fight his way through Italy with the

      "My dad said 'this is your country and you have to fight for it',"
      Nishikubo said.

      Woodrow Crockett served with the Tuskegee Airmen, a segregated black
      unit. He said he returned to Arkansas to support his fellow veterans
      because he understood the conflicting circumstances of Japanese-
      Americans who fought in the war.

      "If you removed the barbed wire, there was no difference in us,"
      Crockett said. "I was segregated all my life."

      Randy Masada, of Fresno, Calif., said his family decided to hold its
      reunion in Little Rock to coincide with the conference. Relatives
      ranging in age from 30 to 83, traveled from across the country.

      Masada's father spent time at the Arkansas camps; his grandfather
      was the first person to die in the camps.

      "Sometimes hardships strengthen families," he said. "This is part of
      our family history and we want to make sure the story is told."

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