The Internment     [ Page 1  |  Page 2 ]

Kuroki said he never felt physically threatened in Heart Mountain but tells of being met with “icy stares” when he boarded a bus to wish some Nisei bound for their pre-induction physicals. Kuroki would call into question the ultimate loyalty of some of the resisters as when he spoke to them he told them “Japan was going to get bombed off the map and I heard some hissing and booing.”  

Of Kuroki’s visit to Minidoka, James Sakoda took meticulous notes as part of a covert academic study for the University of California Berkeley. Sakoda recalled Kuroki was due for a bad reception by many of the Issei (immigrant Japanese) because he had already been quoted in the newspaper as wanting to bomb Japan. Sakoda said, “He didn’t seem to feel he had to refrain himself from making statements of that type. I guess he didn’t really understand.”

Sakoda said of many of the Issei, “One of the feelings was that Japan was winning the war and they relied on this as their ultimate salvation.  And as a matter of fact, in Minidoka, there was a rumor that Japanese ship had landed, the Japanese soldiers were on their way to Minidoka, they were only a few miles outside of the camp and many of the Issei believed this.”

Sakoda continues, “You could understand the Isseis’ feeling because they’re Japanese citizens and they owe their loyalty to Japan basically, so they could be defensive about their feeling toward Japan. The Nisei are American citizens, and for them to have the same kinds of feelings as Issei, in some cases they did and being opposed to Ben Kuroki is hard to understand.”

In 2000, Sakoda said, “He felt he was being of use even though there was a lot of opposition and in a way he couldn’t understand the opposition I guess because he saw it his way and the other people saw it the other way.“

Later in 1944, Kuroki was sent to a federal court in Wyoming to testify at the trial regarding the Heart Mountain resisters. He was never called into court but referred to the resisters as “fascists” in a Cheyenne newspaper stating the actions of some were a “stab in the back and have torn down all the rest of us [Nisei] have tried to do.”

More recently Kuroki said he probably wouldn’t call the resisters fascists today.

The Japanese American Citizens League

The League (JACL) started in 1929, intended to protect the civil rights of Japanese Americans. On the mainland, most Japanese Americans lived in California where organizations like the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, The Grange Association and the Japanese Exclusion League sought to limit and even remove people of Japanese descent from the state.

With the attack of Pearl Harbor, many Japanese Americans saw the JACL as "accomodationist" as JACL leader Mike Masaoka urged its members to cooperate with the internment as a way of showing loyalty.

James Sakoda said of the JACL, “They didn’t have much influence because their reputation was mostly negative.  They weren’t fighting for causes, they were looked upon as simply being tools of the US government.”


The secret Military Intelligence Service Language School had been established before the Pearl Harbor attack in San Francisco to teach Japanese to U.S. soldiers, mostly of Japanese ancestry. After the war started the school moved to Minnesota. Those graduates served on the front line in the Pacific theater primarily as interpreters. Many continued their service with the occupation of Japan after the war. About 6,000 Japanese Americans were connected to the Military Intelligence Service.

When to Watch

Most Honorable Son premieres
Sept. 17, 2007

Check your local listings.

Buy the Program

Most Honorable Son DVD

Learn about ...

• The Nisei
• The Speech
• The Internment