[NOTE from the Author: The story is historical fiction. The storyline is real…(and) reflects my memories in Minidoka in early 1943 upon announcement of the formation of an all Nisei, segregated US Army unit. I was 13-years old.
***All publication rights reserved. I give written authorization to the Seattle, WA, NVC Newsletter to publish "The Brothers" in its May, 2022 edition. ATSUSHI KIUCHI]
The Year is 1943.
Brothers, Akira, 18 and Kuni, 20, are sitting on government-issue canvass fold-up cots. The stark, sparsely-furnished 20 x 20 room is in Block 42, Barrack 4, Unit C, Minidoka War Relocation Authority incarceration facility in south central Idaho.
A faded, olive-drab, “US Army” blanket serves as a room divider. A large, pot-belly stove dominates the living area. A purloined wooden packing crate serves as a table. Two battered folding metal chairs complete the living room furniture.
Pinned to the plasterboard wall, between the exposed 2 x 4s, are: a purple and gold University of Washington pennant and a dusty 1941 Seattle “Rainier Meat Market and Grocery” calendar.
A crumbled newspaper, the “Minidoka Irrigator,” lies carelessly on the bare wood floor. The front page headline in 36 point Arial type reads “US Army Seeking Nisei Volunteers.”
The older brother, Kuni, 20, is classified “4-C, Undesired Alien” when he registers with the US Selective Training and Service (“draft”) in 1941. Younger brother, Akira, 18, is classified “1-A, Draft Eligible” after the U.S. Selective Service classification system was amended.
The ensuing dialogue between the brothers:
KUNI: What does the Army think we are—baka—stupid? They have the guts to think we would join up after all that happened to us? They’re nuts!
AKIRA: We’re still American citizens. It’s our duty.
KUNI: Yeah? Tell our parents who can never be American citizens. They sweat and toil to make this a great country. What did they get? Barbed wire.
AKIRA: Remember what we learned at Bailey Gatzert---Miss Mahon—“One nation with liberty and justice for all.”
KUNI: Talk is cheap. It was all lies. Was it ”liberty” inside the barbed wire at Camp Harmony? Was it “justice” here in this God forsaken desert with the jackrabbits, dust storms, sagebrush and rattlesnakes?
AKIRA: You have a short memory of convenience. When we were kids, times were tough. Mom and Dad seized every opportunity to raise us right. They often made sacrifices trying to blend their “old country nihonjin” ways with our new “hakujin” culture.
KUNI: You forgot the restrictions: housing, jobs, business and education. We were second class citizens. It was all subtle and often secret. December 7…how come Germans, Italians……Remember “A Japs a Jap?”
AKIRA: O.K., let’s settle. Since you’re the oldest, son, we’ll follow tradition. You stay here in camp and take care of mom and dad. I will volunteer.
AKIRA: Killed in action during the Arno River crossing campaign between Florence and Pisa, Italy, as a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 100th Bn/442nd Regimental Combat Team, US Army on August 29, 1944. Returned to Seattle in 1952. Buried at Washelli Cemetery, Seattle, WA.
KUNI: Served three-year sentence at McNeil Island federal penitentiary for draft resistance. Returned to Seattle in May, 1944.
[Copyright 4/15/22. No reproduction without written permission of the author.]