Japanese-Americans' Army Service Honored
- 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
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',"
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."