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Unforgotten Stories — Extras

Out takes for movies are often hilarious snippets, with actors flubbing their lines. Books suffer from a similar fate. Usually, in final edits we have an overwritten passage or a photo that just won’t fit. One editor told me I was the only one who would miss an overly long section of a chapter he was deleting. Maybe.

As I edited interviews for UNFORGOTTEN, I had to cut so many passages. It was so painful to do, I asked Nancy Matsumoto, co-author of the book, to do the deed. Some were redundant. We had to choose the one that felt the sharpest. Others were cast out simply because there was nowhere to fit them. The nice thing about doing a blog is being able to use some of these outtakes—both pictures and stories to enlarge upon what was included.

Here is a perfect example:

Take a look at this photo of young men, all of them members of Japanese American Men’s Club at UC Berkeley 1941. That’s Frank Hayami second row, fourth from the right, grinning as if someone just cracked a big joke. While looking through the Hayami Family photos, I pulled this one aside. There was something about this picture that made me stop and realize what was about to happen.

It was fall, 1941, only months before these happy looking young men would have their lives turned upside down. Their college days would end abruptly before the fall semester ended. By spring, along with their families and friends, they would be imprisoned. That fall, when the photo was taken, they were 1-A eligible for the US Army. But, after December 7th, those that rushed to their local draft board to enlist were rejected.

It didn’t matter that they were Americans by birth and American citizens. Their parents, who were legal aliens suddenly became “enemy aliens” and overnight, their children became “non-aliens,” whatever that was supposed to mean. For most of that first year of the war they were imprisoned, their lives on hold. And then, in January 1943, Uncle Sam did an about face. Suddenly, they were welcome to volunteer. By now, both young and old inside the camps felt betrayed. They had been living as prisoners for over a year and now they were expected to volunteer to fight for the government that took away their freedom, not to mention all their parents had worked to build. The army had miscalculated. They expected to get 2,000 volunteers at Heart Mountain alone. In fact, only xx men signed on.

But when the army didn’t get the thousands of volunteers expected, Uncle Sam changed the rules changed again. Starting in 1944, all young men in the camps, in other words, all the young men in this photograph were potentially 1-A again. We don’t know how many of these college students served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, or served with MIS Intelligence, or if any of them became Resisters, who refused to serve until their civil liberties and those of their families were restored. Just looking at this photograph one can’t help thinking of the many stories these young men could tell.

To read stories that didn’t get cut, look for Unforgotten Voices from Heart Mountain, in bookstores and on Kindle. by Joanne Oppenheim and Nancy Matsumoto.



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