[R.I.P.] Jack Herzig - Fought for Japanese American Redress
- Jack Herzig, J-A Redress Champion, Dead at 83
Mei Ying Liu By Sam Chu Lin, Sep 02, 2005
Jack Herzig, of Gardena, Calif., an unsung hero of the Japanese
American redress movement, died at home Sunday, August 21, with his
family gathered around him. He was 83, and suffered from colon
He and his wife, Aiko Yoshiniga-Herzig, were researchers with the
Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians and
played key roles in winning redress for 120,000 J-As who were sent
to 10 concentration camps during World War II.
"Jack and Aiko played the role of researchers who looked into
thousands of pages of actual government documents that showed in
fact that racism did play a key role in the effort to put Japanese
Americans into these camps," Warren Furutani, Herzig's son-in-law,
Aiko Yoshiniga-Herzig stated, "I hope that the Commission findings
and the coram nobus case, William Hohri, et al. versus the United
States, the class action lawsuit and those activities have
brought some acknowledgement that this country mistreated a minority
group just due to its ethnicity."
Born in Teaneck, N.J., Herzig was a veteran of World War II and the
Korean War. He parachuted and helped to liberate Corregidor from the
Japanese and was involved in counterintelligence in occupied Japan.
He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel.
Civil rights attorney Dale Minami said Herzig "made another major
contribution when he challenged and destroyed the argument that the
MAGIC Japanese diplomatic cables justified the internment."
"America had broken the Japanese code, and they were able to
intercept cables from Japan to various embassies," Minami
elaborated. "A few of them discussed the idea of engaging Americans
of Japanese ancestry and other groups like African Americans into a
spy network [helped] them gain information about the United States
people like Dan Lungren [California Congressman] and author Michelle
Malkin made the enormous leap to claim that it justified the
internment of Japanese Americans even though there was no spy
"What Jack did was systematically review those cables and put them
in a context that this was a wish list by Japan rather than an
actual strategy. They never found anyone who had been recruited by
Japan, and those cables themselves barely came to the attention of
the policy makers who already decided to intern the Japanese
The Herzigs formerly lived in Falls Church, Va., and moved to
Southern California last year to continue their work. They
contributed their papers to UCLA's Asian American Studies Center,
and they were putting the finishing touches on a manuscript of all
of the transcripts of all of the ten commission hearings.
Don Nakanishi, head of UCLA's Asian American Studies Centers,
expects the project to be completed soon.
"Jack was sadly not able to see it fully completed," Nakanishi
stated. "But he was very much a part of the compilation and the
editing of it."
"Jack and Aiko are not PhD types," he added. "In some ways, they
were self-taught researchers and archivists who went through in
great detail through the National Archives and discovered something
that was supposed to have been destroyed by the government."
"He had a deep and profound passion for social justice," Minami
offered. "I believe that was formed not only from his own
experiences, but his relationship with Aiko. They both had that
same passion to make sure what was done to Japanese Americans was
For Herzig's legacy, his family urges the public to be vigilant.
"I'm really concerned because we seemed not to have learned the
lesson even though redress had been given to Japanese Americans for
the mistreatment they had," Aiko Yoshiniga-Herzig commented. "I
still think the way this country is treating and viewing Arab
Americans here makes me sad. I just hope people will remember Jack
for his fight for justice."
In lieu of flowers, individuals should send donations to their own
favorite charity in the name of Jack Herzig.
Herzig is survived by his wife, Aiko; two daughters, Gerrie and
Lisa; two sons, David and Thomas; and six grandchildren.
"Much of what was said by the government was in fact a public
relations spin. They used concepts like `national security' to put
citizens in jail."
Warren Furutani, L.A. City Community College Board of Trustees
"Jack was a passionate fighter for redress He and Aiko worked so
hard to find the `missing link' [suppressed evidence] that was
successful in helping Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru
Yasui involving their coram nobus filings before the courts.
That `missing link' was not only essential but also for our
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, former Congressman who
fought for redress