San Francisco- November 11, 2013. The MIS Historic Learning Center held its opening day ceremonies after 25 years in the making. It began operations as the first MIS language school in 1941, a month before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many dignitaries, veterans, and family members attended the ceremony.
Maj. Gen. Arthur Ishimoto (Ret), a MIS veteran, delivered the following keynote speech:
Building 640, The Presidio, San Francisco, California
I was a member of the Military Intelligence Service during World War II. This building has a connection to all of us who served in the MIS. We began our long journey from here to prove we’re Americans.
But first, let me remind you of our shameful and ugly history so that you can fully understand why so much blood was spilled by my generation.
Our lives changed dramatically on December 7, 1941.
We nisei were suspected of being disloyal and were classified as “enemy aliens” (4-C). With one stroke of a pen, 70,000 nisei lost their citizenship. One hundred and twelve thousand Japanese residents from the West Coast were sent to internment camps. From April 1942 to October 1943, 17,000 so-called “enemy aliens” lived in the stables at Santa Ana racetrack under deplorable condition.
In 1943, we were allowed to enlist in the Army. Even while in the Army, we were called Japs. When we returned home from the battlefields with Purple Hearts, we were met with signs that read, “No Japs allowed”. We were refused service at barber shops, restaurants and other places.
We looked like the enemy, but we were Americans at heart. What price is freedom, we wondered?
Most internees accepted their confinement, surrendered and said, “Shikata ga nai,” meaning “it can’t be helped, there is nothing we can do”. Oh yes, we did. More than 33,000 of us served in the military during World War II.. That was more than 13 percent of the total Japanese population in the U.S. and greater than the national average.
In Japanese culture, there were values we depended on. Gaman is one. It means “endure, tolerate, persevere”. My judo sensei yelled in the dojo many times, “Ganbare” — “don’t give up, hang in there.”
We suffered racial adversity since that December day. We had to gaman and ganbare. These two values were our guiding principle that navigated us through a sea of racial prejudice, hatred and distrust.
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