Unhyphenated Patriots, Part 2

“All of us can’t stay in the camps until the end of the war. Some of us have to go to the front. Our record on the battlefield will determine when you will return and how you will be treated. I don’t know if I’ll make it back.”

The above is an excerpt from a letter written by Tech Sgt. Abraham Ohama of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team–Killed in Action 1/20/1944.

It could have as easily been written by Captain Humayun Khan.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own family’s history as I watched his father, Khizr Khan, talk about the loss of his Muslim American son.

In 2011, I wrote a post titled “Unhyphenated Patriots” about the service of Japanese Americans during World War II, even as their families had been “relocated” to internment camps secured by barbed wire and armed soldiers. One of those patriots was my Uncle Yoshio.


The fear-mongering propagated by Donald Trump (and, being a life-long Republican, I’m ashamed to say, also others on the right) about Muslims–whether it’s denying entry, (Trump), “patroling and securing” Muslim neighborhoods, (Cruz) or testing for their loyalty (Gingrich), is, for me, all too similar to what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.

I’ve spoken around the country about The Red Kimono and the internment of Japanese Americans. In my conversations, most, if not all agreed–the internment of Japanese Americans is an ugly event in American history.

And yet, we’re on a slippery slope toward repeating that ugly time in our history.

If you don’t see the similarities, read about Executive Order 9066, which established military zones and curfews, and cleared the way for the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans.


Or, read Questions 27 & 28 from the Loyalty Questionnaire, given to all Japanese American internees 17 years or older:lq

Uncle Yoshio served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare. He was awarded the Bronze Medal and in 2010, the Congressional Gold Medal. Most importantly, he returned alive.

But, many Japanese Americans did not return from World War II, and many Muslim Americans like Captain Khan, did not return from wars in the Middle East.

I understand fear. I won’t deny I, too, am afraid at times. Perhaps I resist reacting to it because I’ve seen the “other side”–my family has been touched and affected by this kind of fear. Whatever the reason, as long as I can, I will resist allowing my fear to lead me to make decisions that discriminate against an entire people because of the actions of a relative few.


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5 Responses to Unhyphenated Patriots, Part 2

  1. We are going through fearful times, but it isn’t the first time, as you point out. We can go back in history as far as America has existed and see this type of action. The white man rounded up Cherokees, my ancestors, and marched them from their homes into Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, where even today many live in abject poverty. This is only one example of how we founded this country. There are many more. One has to wonder why we never learn lessons. The American Indians also served this country in WW II and WW I, thus it seems we will continue to carry out such terrible actions against our fellow human beings. Now it is Muslims.

  2. John Fawcett says:

    Funny but I don’t remember any German or Italian interment camps. Fear is an excuse. It’s so easy to round up those with different religions and and from different tribes. I was in Vietnam and I saw a lot of fear. I can’t say there was racial bliss always but we depended on each other to survive. You learn something from that. We should all be in this together now.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      John, I learned in my research for The Red Kimono (and it’s noted in some of the links I shared in this post) that much of the reason behind the internment was more prejudice than security. If not, then why weren’t more Japanese interned in Hawaii, where we were actually attacked? You’re right–we should all be in this together now.

  3. Pingback: The Slippery Slope of Passivity and Prejudice | Jan Morrill Writes

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