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Eighty-two years ago today (Dec. 7), a surprise military attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii changed the course of the Second World War — it led to the United States entering the war the next day, as did Canada. As then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, Dec. 7, 1941 was “a date which will live in infamy.” Here are a few stories that were published in the Calgary Herald and its sister newspapers related to Pearl Harbor and the fallout actions in Canada, which resulted in Japanese-Canadians being sent to internment camps.
From the Montreal Gazette on Dec. 8, 1941:
From the Calgary Herald on Dec. 11, 1941:
From the Calgary Herald on Dec. 1, 1991, the year of the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor:
PEARL HARBOR: Emotions run high as U.S. and Japan approach anniversary
By Ken MacQueen, Southam News
High on a Honolulu hillside sits the venerable Natsunoya Teahouse with its commanding vista of the city and the naval base at Pearl Harbor.
For Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa, the second-storey balcony of his favorite hangout offered a panoramic view, 50 years ago, of a country basking in splendid isolation.
Pulling his eyes from the geishas, Yoshikawa looked across a tiny Japanese cemetery in the foreground to the distant U.S. Pacific fleet. He watched the ships return each weekend, clustering in the harbor like green sailors in a new port.
The cream-colored restaurant with its bamboo entranceway is a vestige of a city that changed forever at 7:55 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941 — when the first wave of Japanese bombers hit with brutal efficiency, sweeping in low and fast on a Sunday morning.
By 10 a.m. it was over: 2,335 American military personnel killed or fatally wounded; 68 civilians dead; more than 1,100 injured; 188 U.S. planes lost; 18 battleships sunk or heavily damaged.
A half-century later, as the state and the nation — and Japan — gingerly approach a painful anniversary, the healing is far from complete.
Like the oil that still bleeds into the harbor from the sunken tomb of the USS Arizona, emotions are welling from the depths as the commemoration ceremonies approach.
Old men stare into the harbor, “playing tapes of a long time ago” as survivor Jack Westerman puts it. Confusion. Fear. Death. Hatred. Forgiveness, for some. Bitterness, for others.
A wizened man in a grey suit stands, smoking, within sight of the memorial that straddles the suken Arizona, where 1,177 men died and the bodies of 945 remain. He is Zenji Abe, once a dive bomber pilot of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
He targeted a big destroyer that morning. The Arizona, he now believes.
A few minutes ago, on behalf of 20 ex-pilots, he gave a letter to Westerman, who served on the USS Maryland:
“We, the Japanese veterans of Pearl Harbor, deeply regret that 50 years ago the United States and Japan — because their leaders could not sufficiently understand their respective positions — entered into a terrible great war,” he wrote.
The meeting is taped for later broadcast by NBC TV’s Today Show. It is great television: Conflict, resolution, redemption, all before the commercial. The reality is not so neat.
The national association of Pearl Harbor survivors refuses to sanction the meeting.
“We’ve got to get rid of the stereotypes we’ve had of our former enemies,” Westerman reflects later. “Mr. Abe is a human being just like I am.”
Japan is now an ally. Perhaps a friend. Most certainly, an economic rival. But there has never been a formal apology for what many Americans consider a brutal sneak attack.
To the extent that Pearl Harbor is discussed at all in Japan, it is seen by many as a forced act, caused by America’s crippling embargoes against oil, metal, rubber and the other tools of Japan‘s 10 years of invasion and expansion in the Asian Pacific.
Then, the Japanese, too, have an approaching anniversary to mourn: August 1945, when American atomic bombs shattered Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The seeds for all this — old ghosts and new disputes — were planted in two hours that Dec. 7.
America was literally blasted out of its isolationist stance and thrown into the Second World War after two years on the sidelines.
Canada, too, gained an enemy that day, declaring war on Japan almost a half-day before the U.S.
Within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack, two ill-fated Canadian battalions on the Kowloon Peninsula were engaged in a hopeless defence of Hong Kong as Japan mounted co-ordinated attacks throughout the Asian Pacific.
By the time the outgunned, outnumbered Commonwealth troops surrendered Hong Kong on Christmas Day, 290 Canadian soldiers were dead. Almost 300 more died of their injuries or of maltreatment in Japanese prison camps.
It was a huge loss for a small country, but one overshadowed, even in Canadian memories, by Pearl Harbor’s “day, which will live in infamy.”
“Always will we remember that character of the onslaught against us,” President Roosevelt said in his famous speech asking Congress for a declaration of war. America was launched into a slaughter that claimed 50 million lives on all sides by 1945. True to his prediction, Dec. 7 remains burned into the American psyche as a pivot point in 20th century history.
“Remember Pearl Harbor” became a watchword for a country determined to never again be caught sleeping, says Warren Verhoff, 70, then a young radio operator on a navy tug.
“This Gulf (war) thing that we just went through shows you again. You’d better keep your country alert. You’d better keep it strong. Because you never know when one of these nuts is going to pop up again.”
President George Bush — himself shot down by the Japanese during the war — is likely to carry a similar, if more diplomatic, version of that message during an address at the Arizona memorial anniversary day.
Hawaii now weathers the lucrative turmoil of heavy Japanese investment.
Today’s targets of opportunity are businesses, real estate, and sun-baked beaches. Japanese jets scream low and fast into Honolulu International, in what Newsweek once called the “carpet-bombing of Hawaii with yen.”
Japan has bought what it couldn’t capture, goes simplistic conventional wisdom.
The Japanese own 65 per cent of the state’s hotel rooms, 1,400 businesses and at least $16 billion in assets. Japanese tourists outspend their counterparts in the U.S. and Canada by about 3:1.
From the Calgary Herald on March 5, 2003:
By James H. Marsh
Police banging on doors at all hours of the day or night, ordering frightened occupants to gather up only what they could carry. Parents and children innocent of any crime ushered from their homes, herded into a central depot and freighted out by train to remote camps. A scene from Nazi Germany? No, it was the internment of the Japanese in British Columbia, 1942, and other parts of Canada.
The Japanese suffered the sting of racism since the first Japanese, a sailor named Manzo Nagano, stepped ashore in 1877 at New Westminster.
The early B.C. settlers were very conscious of their British origins and, deeply concerned about the racial origins of the new immigrants, became obsessed with excluding “undesirables.” Laws were passed to keep the Japanese from working in the mines, prevent them from voting and prohibit them from working on projects funded by the province.
Then came the stunning news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. On Dec. 25, the Japanese forced the surrender of the British garrison at Hong Kong, including two battalions of Canadians. These shocking events and fears of a Japanese invasion, fanned by sensationalist press, spread along the Pacific Coast.
The RCMP arrested suspected Japanese operatives, impounded 1,200 fishing boats and shut down Japanese newspapers and schools. “From the army point of view, I cannot see that Japanese-Canadians constitute the slightest menace to national security,” declared Maj.-Gen. Ken Stuart. B.C. politicians were in a rage, speaking of the Japanese, as Canadian diplomat Escott Reid said, “in the way that the Nazis would have spoken about Jewish Germans. When they spoke, I felt in that room the physical presence of evil.”
On Feb. 24, 1942, prime minister Mackenzie King issued a series of orders-in-council to evacuate all persons of Japanese origin to “protective areas.” All property that could not be carried would be taken “into custody.” Ten days later, the British Columbia Security Commission removed the first 2,500 Japanese to Hastings Park. “It was terrible, unbelievable,” one woman remembered. “They kept us in the stalls where they put the cattle and horses.”
Special trains carried the Japanese from Hastings Park to Slocan, New Denver and other ghost towns in B.C. interior. The camps were in a spectacular setting but conditions were primitive.
On Jan. 19, 1943, in a further betrayal, an order-in-council liquidated all the Japanese property that had been under “protective custody.”
Some Japanese might have cherished the idea that racism was confined to B.C., but they found it was all across Canada. Though in need of labour, Albertans did not want the Japanese in their midst. Alberta farmers crowded the labourers into tiny shacks and cheated them of their wages. For the Japanese, sugar-beet labour was “hell on earth.”
Some 20,881 were uprooted, of whom 13,309 were Canadian citizens by birth. Most of the older nationals had lived in Canada for up to 40 years.
The Japanese didn’t resist the internment. Their culture emphasized duty and obligations as part of gaman (forbearance). As Kaoru Ikeda wrote: “Shikata-ga-nai. You say it fast. It means ‘It can’t be helped.’ That’s why most of us didn’t put up a fuss. It is part of our upbringing.”
Even at the end of the war, King continued to bow to the most strident demands. He offered the Japanese two choices: Go back to Japan or disperse “east of the Rockies.” Unlike his counterparts in the United States, he never expressed any regrets and even declared that he had dealt with the problem “with loving mercy.”
On May 2, 1947, SS Marine Angel slipped its moorings in Vancouver carrying a vanguard of 3,964 who sailed for war-devastated Japan.
With these deportations, the Japanese gained some friends among Canadians. But the last controls on the Japanese were not lifted until March 31, 1949, when the Japanese were free to vote. Canadian society began to open to the Japanese.
The military threat cited to justify the evacuation of the Japanese never existed outside the overheated imaginations of some British Columbians. Still, many people are uncomfortable with the current enthusiasm for judging the acts of our predecessors from the exalted perspective of hindsight. When the Japanese campaigned for compensation, Pierre Trudeau asked, where would compensation end?
History leaves many victims.
James H. Marsh is editor-in-chief of The Canadian Encyclopedia.
From the Calgary Herald on Feb. 28, 2019:
Canada’s dark past illuminated through interactive project; Writer shares family’s story of living in internment camps with new generation
By Camille Bains / The Canadian Press
Joy Kogawa is giddy about the “miracle” of technology allowing people to learn about Canada’s racist past that forced thousands of citizens like her out of their homes and into internment camps during the Second World War.
“It’s wonderful to me that the story that I lived through can be part of this generation’s knowledge,” the writer and poet says from her home in Toronto.
Kogawa, 83, chronicled her family’s internment experience in the British Columbia Interior town of Slocan and their forced labour at a sugar beet farm in Coaldale, Alta., in her acclaimed 1981 novel Obasan.
She was six years old in 1942 when her older brother Timothy and their parents were stripped of their property and belongings after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor changed the lives of 22,000 Japanese-Canadians, most of whom were born in Canada but were classified as a threat to national security. Their American counterparts were also interned but their homes and businesses were not confiscated and sold.
Now, Kogawa has written the script for an interactive augmented reality experience called East of the Rockies, which brings to life a dark chapter in Canada’s history through the story of a 17-year-old girl named Yuki who is sent to the same camp where Kogawa’s family was taken.
The project, available March 1 through Apple’s App Store, was developed by digital production agency Jam3 and co-produced by the National Film Board. It allows users to tap, swipe and zoom in on objects in the camp, such as Yuki’s beloved family record player, and hear music they listened to in their cramped space shared with a new mother desperately trying to care for her twin babies, along with her grandfather.
Archival photos of other Japanese families, complete with details about the conditions they endured, often while separated, can also be accessed through the app.
Dirk van Ginkel, a creative director with Jam3, who considered the nearly two-year project a labour of love as he worked with his then-colleague Jason Legge, says the pair played games on PlayStation with Kogawa to get her used to the idea of interactive technology.
“Instead of consuming content just linearly, you are in charge of what you’re looking at and how you’re looking at it,” van Ginkel says.
Facial features of the characters are obscured because those detained in the camp were “not seen as humans,” van Ginkel adds.
The technique also seems to tap into the harsh tempo of current populist views in some countries that Kogawa says could propel a return to racist policies mirroring those of the 1940s and impact the lives of people around the world.
Kogawa says the fear and resentment she witnessed as a child who looked different from the majority fuelled a lot of suffering including her mother’s breakdown. But she is proud of Canada’s current stance on immigration, calling the country a “beacon of hope.”
Back then, however, Japanese-Canadians were given the choice of being deported to Japan or moving east of the Rockies after the war ended, says Kogawa, who was born in Vancouver and is a Nisei – someone born in North America to parents who immigrated from Japan.
“A lot of people did come to Toronto but they were scattered across the country,” she says, adding that dispersal made it tough to retain their culture.
“The other day I went to a nursing home and there were two old Niseis, neither of whom had been married. And they had nobody to visit them, no family. That’s the tragedy of the first generation.”
Kogawa’s 21-year-old granddaughter, Anne Canute, narrates East of the Rockies, in which her displaced character reminisces on a teenage crush while trying to reckon with the reality of losing the family’s home in Vancouver: “I wonder who’s sleeping in my bedroom? Who has all our things?” Canute says she grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories about her uprooted childhood and the racial tensions in Canada but didn’t learn much about that history until after high school.
“I think the dispersal of community and lack of ability to practise culture was really impactful for both my grandmother and my mother and me,” says Canute, a fourth-year University of B.C. student whose studies include Asian migration and the development of those communities in Canada.
The National Film Board’s website includes a free downloadable English and French PDF learning kit based on East of the Rockies for high schools, featuring lessons on life in the various internment camps, repatriation and the impact of Canada’s policies on generations.
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