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Revolving Exhibit: H.R.442: Nisei Veterans and the Fight for Civil Liberties

Date Run: August 4th, 2018 - September 16th, 2018

This August 10th will mark the 30th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan signing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law, granting a formal apology from the United States government and monetary reparations for those of Japanese ancestry and Aleuts during World War II. Many years in the making, the Japanese American veterans of WWII had an impact on this journey to achieve this legislation. In fact, the resolution which became the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, House Resolution 442 (H.R.442), was intentionally named to honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Focusing on several important stories, H.R.442: Nisei Veterans and the Fight for Civil Liberties highlights the contributions from battlefields to justice of Senator Spark Matsunaga, Senator Daniel Inouye, and Kazuo Masuda.

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“No Nisei veterans, no redress.” - Grant Ujifusa

On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law, granting a formal apology from the United States government to Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. In his remarks, President Reagan commended the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the segregated unit of Japanese Americans, stating they “served with immense distinction to defend this nation, their nation,” while their “families were being denied the very freedom for which so many of the soldiers themselves were laying down their lives.”

The tenacity of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team led them to become the most decorated unit for its size and length of service, but the virtue and valor of the Nisei veterans during World War II did not stop in the battlefields. Rather they continued into the business and political domains as they began to earn the respect of recognition for their valiant efforts during the war.

However despite the gains made by the Japanese American community, many still had underlying feeling of shame, guilt, and inequity from the racial discrimination experienced while in the concentration camps. During the Civil Rights Movement many Japanese Americans began to demand redress, particularly the Sansei. As Japanese American Congressional representation increased through Hawaii’s statehood, and more specifically Nisei veteran representation through Senator Daniel Inouye and Representative Spark Matsunaga, redress and reparations became more achievable.

House Resolution 442 (H.R.442) was intentionally named to honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and frame the bill around loyalty, not race. The signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 --named as a reminder of the civil liberties Japanese Americans were denied during World War II and the same civil liberties the Nisei veterans risked their lives to have restored --alleviated the feeling of being a “second-class” citizen.

H.R.442: Nisei Veterans and the Fight for Civil Liberties will focus on several important stories such as the relationship between U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and Hawaii statehood; Kazuo Masuda and Ronald Reagan; and Rudy Tokiwa and U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett. Other stories will highlight Senator Spark Matsunaga; Jim Kawaminami’s Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians testimony; and the Texas Congressional Delegation, including U.S. Senators Jim Wright and Sam Rayburn.

Over 30,000 Japanese Americans served in the United States Armed Forces, primarily in the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service. Their fight is often referred to as both a fight against Germany and France, and a fight at home for the restoration of civil liberties that were taken from them and their families.

President Reagan signing H.R.442

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