Nisei: "No Way"
Perhaps you've heard the Yiddish word chutspah, which means something along the lines of "nerve" or "temerity" or "audacity." The classic definition of chutspah is the child who murders both of his parents and then asks for the court's mercy because he's an orphan.
The government provided a definition of chutspah in 1944 when, two years after locking up all of the Nisei as suspected spies and traitors, it turned around and began drafting them into the U.S. Army.
This episode of Scapegoat Cities tells the story of one Nisei who refused induction in order to create a legal test case for the courts.
In all, over three hundred Nisei resisted the draft during the war. Nearly two hundred of these came from just two camps -- Poston and Heart Mountain. The balance came from seven of the other eight camps, including Minidoka in Idaho, which is the site of this episode. Only Manzanar in California produced no draft resisters.
All but 27 of these hundreds were convicted of federal crimes. The 27 who beat the charges were from the Tule Lake Segregation Center in northern California. In their case, a federal judge concluded that it was "shocking to the conscience" to confine someone on the basis of suspected disloyalty, draft him into the military, and then prosecute him for resisting.
If you're interested in knowing more about the Nisei draft resisters, check out my book "Free to Die for their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II," and Frank Abe's excellent film
This episode is a true story in every key detail.
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