Eji Suyama, 100th Bn/442nd RCT Draftees, No-Nos, Draft Resisters and Renunciants Archival Collection Endowment

UCLA Asian American Studies Center's Suyama Project aims to preserve the history of Japanese American resistance during World War II, including, but not limited to the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team draftees, Army and draft resisters, No-Nos, renunciants, and other Nikkei dissidents of World War II. The Suyama Project is made possible through the generous gift of an anonymous donor who wanted to honor and remember the legacy of resistance, broadly understood.

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Military Resisters

Before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese American men were volunteering or being drafted into the United States military like other Americans and served in integrated units.


Immediately after Pearl Harbor, there was a period of confusion. At that time, the Department of Defense, which was created in 1947, did not exist, and all branches of the military were overseen by the War Department.


A few months after Pearl Harbor, the War Department deemed all Japanese Americans unfit for military service, but Japanese Americans were still getting their draft notices.


In addition, because the War Department did not come out with a uniform policy on Japanese Americans already in the military, some soldiers were being discharged while others had their weapons taken away and were put to work doing menial jobs.


What developed was a separate military policy for dealing with Japanese Americans on the mainland and in Hawaii. Policies towards Japanese Americans in Hawaii were more moderate, and the men in the National Guard units in Hawaii eventually became the 100th Infantry Battalion, which would later become a part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.


In June 1942, the War Department and the Selective Service finally stopped inducting Japanese Americans into the military and categorized them as IV-C, aliens not acceptable for service.


However, in a contradictory twist, the War Department formed the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) in Minneapolis that same month in June 1942. Japanese American soldiers, who passed a proficiency test in reading and writing Japanese, were sent to the MISLS. A smaller language school had been in operation at the Presidio in San Francisco as early as November 1941, a month before Pearl Harbor.


The Army began separating Japanese Americans, already in the military but not eligible for the MISLS, from non-Japanese American soldiers in what would eventually become the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team.


All Japanese American soldiers were prevented from returning to the West Coast to assist their families being uprooted from their homes and herded into U.S. concentration camps. They would also later be required to fill out a controversial loyalty questionnaire.


As a result, some Japanese American soldiers began to protest and came under government scrutiny. The soldiers' complaints ranged from questioning the validity of the loyalty questionnaire, objecting to the imprisonment of their family in U.S. concentration camps, opposing segregation in the U.S. Army to simply requesting a clarification of what principles they were fighting for overseas, while denied democratic freedom in their own country.


There were several notable incidents, which sparked protest. One occurred at Fort Riley, Kansas, where armed soldiers, wearing the same uniform as the Japanese American soldiers, herded an entire detachment of Japanese Americans into a hangar and kept them under armed guard until a tour of the grounds was completed by President Roosevelt.


At Fort McClellan, Ala., Japanese American soldiers, who had raised concerns about discrimination within the Army and the lack of democratic rights for themselves and their families in camps, were charged with disobeying orders. They became known as the Fort McClellan Disciplinary Barrack Boys (DB Boys, for short). At the court martial, they were charged with one count of violating the lawful command of a superior officer and sent to the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth, Kansas.


In general, the Japanese American soldiers who came under suspicion were either imprisoned at Leavenworth or sent to the 1800th Engineer General Service Battalion, a full-fledged engineering battalion made up of American soldiers of Japanese, German, and Italian descent and a few others, whom the U.S. government wanted to keep under surveillance.


Those at Leavenworth received sentences ranging from three to 30 years but after the war, President Truman issued a Presidential Order, shortening the sentences to about 3.5 years.


The 1800th served stateside and distinguished themselves. They received a congratulatory citation from the commanding officer for participating in emergency rescue efforts when the White River in Arkansas flooded to historic levels.


The 1800th was disbanded in September 1945, and most of the Kibei soldiers, especially those who spoke with a heavy Japanese accent, were given a blue or "without honor" discharges, disqualifying them from receiving veterans' benefits.


Post War

From 1948 to 1954, attorney Charles Zane worked unsuccessfully on a pro bono basis to try to get honorable discharges for the DB Boys.


During the 1980s, attorney Paul Minerich picked up where Zane had left off. Minerich became aware of the DB Boys' story after he married the daughter of Tetsuo Tim Nomiyama, a DB Boy who served time at Leavenworth.


In December 1982, the Army's Board of Corrections of Military Records voted 3-2 in favor of the Japanese American veterans, agreeing to the reinstatement of rank, restitution of back pay and other benefits. The Army, however, refused to set aside the court martial convictions. Filmmaker Loni Ding devotes a short segment to the DB Boys in "Color of Honor," a documentary on the Japanese American soldiers of World War II.


Around the same time, Kiyoshi Kawashima, a 1800th veteran who had received a blue discharge, contacted attorney Hyman Bravin, who agreed, on a pro bono basis, to testify before the Army Discharge Review Board. After two years of preparation, Bravin was informed that the 1800th veterans would have their discharges upgraded to honorable if they submitted an application.


The story of the military resisters, particularly of the 1800th Battalion, would have been forgotten without the push from Kiku Funabiki, whose cousin, Tow Hori, had been involved in the Fort Riley and Fort McClellan incidents and ended up in the 1800th Battalion. With Funabiki's encouragement, Cedrick Shimo, a 1800th veteran, began speaking publicly and writing extensively about the 1800th.

During the 1990s, the students of Leila Meyerratken, a middle school teacher in Lafayette, Indiana, made a quilt to honor the Japanese American soldiers of World War II. One panel of the quilt is devoted to the 1800th Battalion, thanks to Shimo and Jack and Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga.

For More Information:

Castelnuovo, Shirley. Soldiers of Conscience: Japanese American Military Resisters in WorldWar II. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2008.


Shibutani, Tamotsu. The Derelicts of Company K: A Sociological Study of Demoralization. University of California Press, 1978.


Color of Honor: The Japanese American Soldier of World War II. Produced by Loni Ding.