These Japanese-Americans Were Sent To Internment Camps, Then They Helped The U.S. Fight Nazis

More than 120,000 Japanese-Americans, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens, were put into internment camps.

“My whole life, I questioned whether or not I could have done what my grandfather did,” says Rob Sato. “How do you go risk your life for the country that has put your family in prison?”

Sato’s grandfather, Roy Sato, was a teenager during World War II, and he and his family were among the more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens, incarcerated in internment camps because of their ethnicity.

In late 1944, he was drafted in the United States Army and became part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Japanese-American soldiers who fought in Europe. Sato drew in part from his own family history while illustrating the comic “442,” which is available through the mobile phone subscription service Stela.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]They were being imprisoned by their own country and yet faced with this choice ... fight for this country or try to prove one’s ‘Americanness.’[/quote]

Written by Koji Steven Sakai and Phinneas Kiyomura, “442” is fiction based on history, including the rescue of “The Lost Battalion,” the Texas 141st Regiment. It was a mission that resulted in the loss of hundreds of the 442nd Regiment soldiers. Sakai, who had worked at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles for 13 years, had long been familiar with the history of the 442nd team.

A illustration from “442.” Image via Rob Sato, used with permission.

“It remains one of this critically under-told stories in terms of World War II,” says Ryan Yount, former editor-in-chief and creative director of Stela Comics, who edited “442.”

This chapter of U.S. history remains relevant, particularly in light of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries, his plans to make camps for undocumented children, and the possible inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. On a broader level, though, the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the service of the 442nd should prompt us to ask: Who is considered “American” and why?

“People revert to an atmosphere of myth that they want to live in,” Sato says. “There’s a fantasy that they want to live in about the past that you take into the present. Knowledge about this gives you a sense of the reality of human nature and what can happen if you drop the ball.”

Illustration by Rob Sato, used with permission.

Incarceration of Americans

In February 1942, Executive Order 9066 allowed for the incarceration of Japanese-Americans living on the U.S. West Coast. They were forced from their homes and taken to assembly centers, primarily in California, before they were sent to camps across the country.

This kind of racism didn’t just happen overnight. U.S. law at that time barred Japanese immigrants from citizenship.

“They were completely cut off for life,” Sato explains.

When he was a kid, Sato’s grandfather would sometimes speak in schools about the incarceration and 442nd. While working on the comic, Sato looked to his family to learn more about that history. His grandfather is in his 90s today, so Sato opted to ask “gentle questions” when he saw him.

The Satos in Rohwer Relocation Camp in Arkansas. Photo via Rob Sato, used with permission.

“My dad had interviewed him in college, so there were old interviews,” Sato says. “My oldest uncle did a lot of gentle prodding here and there so he had information that he could give me.” There were also photos from the time period that Sato hadn’t previously seen that were included in his recent exhibit at the GR2 gallery in Los Angeles’ Sawtelle Japantown neighborhood.

Sato’s great-grandfather migrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s, and his great-grandmother arrived in 1919, yet they weren’t allowed to become citizens. Sato’s grandfather, though, was born in Stockton, California, making him a U.S. citizen at birth. But at that time, there was also the Alien Land Law in California that barred non-citizens from owning land and primarily affected Japanese immigrants living in the state.

“When my grandfather was born, he was the firstborn male in the family, so they immediately bought land under his name to have a stake,” Sato says. But, when Japanese-Americans were incarcerated, they also lost their property.

Roy Sato in Italy. Photo via Rob Sato, used with permission.

Then there was what’s known as the “loyalty questionnaire.” The survey asked many questions, but two questions in particular — numbers 27 and 28 — had major ramifications. Question 27 asked if one was willing to serve in the military. The following question asked if one was willing to give up loyalty to the Japanese emperor.

“I think the standard line, and also the one my grandfather said, was it’s like being asked the question, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’” Sato says. “There’s no answer that doesn’t implicate you in some way.”

Japanese-Americans were thrust into a horrible situation: They were imprisoned without the option or means to defend themselves — their livelihoods stripped from them — and then a number of young men either volunteered for or were drafted into the military.

“The real crux for me was this choice that the Japanese-Americans were having to face,” says Yount, “that they were being imprisoned by their own country and yet faced with this choice of what to do, whether to sign these papers to sign up and to somehow fight for this country or try to prove one’s Americanness or to not.”

Illustration from “442.” Image via Rob Sato, used with permission.

Enacting change

The service of Japanese-Americans in World War II helped bring about changes in the United States. “World War II was a watershed event in a lot of ways,” Sakai says. “The bravery of the 442nd and other segregated units changed our nation’s history.”

In 1948, President Harry Truman signed an executive order that desegregated the military. A few years later, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 allowed Japanese immigrants, among others, to become citizens.

“The argument was how could we keep citizenship away from these parents who gave their children’s lives to this country and say you don’t deserve to be citizens of this country,” Sakai says. “That didn’t make sense back then and it still doesn’t make sense. It’s important that we remember that today when we talk about immigration and other things.”

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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