No-No boys say no to military draft

By Stephen Springer - Staff Reporter



American culture and protest go together like British tea and the Boston Harbor.

The No-No Boys of World War II contributed to this culture of protest and became unsung civil rights heroes at the start of the war, for their resistance of the draft.

Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps by the American government when politicians grew afraid that the war could lead to dissenters within this ethnic group that would act on the behalf of the Japanese emperor.

Later, Americans of Japanese descent in the camps were asked to fight for the United States in the armed forces after having their draft status changed to 4-C.

They were classified as "enemy alien," said Tarisa Matsumoto-Maxfield, a Highline English professor told the History Seminar audience on Oct. 4.

After what would come to be known as the Munson Report was released Jan. 9, 1942 detailing an investigation into the communities and showing there was no threat of Japanese people with unpatriotic allegiances.

When referring to the second generation of Japanese Americans: "They are foreigners to Japan," Munson said.

Despite the evidence, Executive Order 9066 was executed Feb. 19, 1942, forcing anyone of Japanese ancestry to be moved to camps as some sort of military necessity.

Those young enough for the draft were the second-generation immigrants, but they were the first generation of Japanese Americans who had gained citizenship.

This was due to the Naturalization Act of 1790, which blocked first generation immigrants, from becoming citizens.

The Naturalization Act stated that in order to gain American citizenship as an immigrant, one would have to fall into two categories: be a free person and be white.

This law was later upheld in the Supreme Court case of Ozawa v. U.S in 1922.

Following the success and high decoration of the Army's segregated 442 Regimental Combat Team in the European theater of war, the United States decided to use a loyalty survey of all Japanese American internees to decide who would be eligible to have their draft status changed.

Two questions on the survey were problematic for some in the internment camps.

Question 27 asked if the person would serve in the military—second generation males would serve in combat roles while everyone else would serve in support roles.

Question 28 asked if the person would forswear allegiance to the Japanese emperor.

This was problematic for both generations because the first generation would then become stateless persons and the second generation, born in America, had no loyalty to the emperor to denounce.

Several variations of answers to these two questions are what earned draft-resisting Japanese Americans internees camps the title No-No Boys.

Even though many Japanese internees served during World War II, 20,000 used their answers to protest the circumstances of their internment.

263 internees were convicted of draft resistance, the Highline professor told her audience.

Caught between a U.S. immigration policy preventing citizenship for some and the government's disregard for their own findings, internees were pigeon-holed into one of two choices, fighting for the country that interned them and then labeled as enemies or be held accountable for resisting being drafted.

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