The Nisei     [ Page 1  |  Page 2 ]

The Japanese Americans (also called Americans of Japanese Ancestry or AJAs in Hawaii) that belonged to the U.S. Army and Hawaiian Territorial Guard were disarmed. The U.S. government devised plans that would evacuate the AJAs from Hawaii to the mainland. While some were sent to camps in the mainland, most remained free as it was determined the AJAs would not be a security risk, the logistics of the evacuation would be costly and AJAs were needed to maintain the plantations and Hawaiian economy.  

The majority of the all Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team was comprised of AJAs, who came home as war heroes. By the 1950s, AJAs solidified their political power. Hawaii became a state in 1959. AJAs had moved government positions. Among them were 442nd veterans Sen. Daniel Inouye and Spark Masayuki Matsunaga, who served in both Congress and the Senate.  Patsy Mink, the first woman of color to be elected to Congress, served several terms until her death in 2002.

Japanese in Nebraska

During the war years most Japanese Americans on the West Coast or in Hawaii were probably surprised and intrigued to know there were many Nisei in Nebraska. But many knew about Ben Kuroki, the farmer from Hershey, Nebraska who had become a war hero.

Most of the Nebraska Japanese immigrants and the Nisei children lived in the western part of the state, near North Platte, Scottsbluff or Alliance. They joined other immigrants, many from Germany, Ireland, England, Scandinavia and Czechoslovakia.

Professor Andrew Wertheimer of the University of Hawaii notes many Japanese were sugar beet farmers who had learned of Nebraska while working for the Union Pacific railroad, having along the Platte river valley by train. Many Japanese lived in Nebraska, numbering peaking at more than 800 in 1920 according to Kazuo Ito, in his book Issei: A History of Japanese Immigrants in North America. But most were transient, moving back west when their work was done with the railroad.

Rev. Hiram Kano, an Issei, was probably the most prominent Japanese who lived in Nebraska when the war began. On December 7, 1941 he ministered a congregation at the Episcopal Church in North Platte. He and national Japanese American Citizens League representative Mike Masaoka learned of the Pearl Harbor attack when they were arrested by local police. As a community leader and native of Japan Kano was immediately suspect and spent two years in internment camps.

In 1942, the University of Nebraska, Lincoln went counter to most schools of its time, admitting 100 west coast Nisei students who had been released from internment camps to continue their education. The area north of Kimball Hall on the UNL campus is called Nisei Plaza, dedicated by the Nisei alumni in 1999.

When to Watch

Most Honorable Son premieres
Sept. 17, 2007

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Learn about ...

• The Nisei
• The Speech
• The Internment