Emergency Service Committee

Author: Shigeo Yoshida, Emergency Service Committee
Source: Club 100 30th Anniversary Reunion, June 1972

Article detailing the Emergency Service Committee and their contributions to the community to ease racial tension after Pearl Harbor.

The Committee was appointed by the Morale Section of the Military Governor’s Office on Feb. 8, 1942 to work among the people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii in meeting the many difficult problems suddenly thrust upon them by Japan’s treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

The first few months of the war were particularly difficult for them. Over and above the many problems shared by all the people of Hawaii (food rationing, blackouts, censorship, curtailment of civil rights, fear of further enemy attacks, etc.), those with Japanese blood, citizens as well as aliens, were subjected to threats of wholesale interment, suspicion and ostracism. A number of aliens were arrested and sent to internment camps on the mainland, many citizens as well aliens were fired from their jobs, all were dropped from the Territorial Guard, the draft was denied them and those already in the military service were placed in a segregated unit.

Something had to be done to fight the demoralizing rumors, dispel the fears and confusion and re-establish the trust and confidence of the other racial groups in the community, back the rights of citizenship suddenly denied them, convince the military authorities to give them the same opportunity to fight for their country and to participate in other ways to win the war.

Fortunately, some groundwork had already been laid prior to the attack. There was need to foresee and prepare for the problems that were sure to arise in a community composed of many racial groups one of which made up a third of the population and were subjects of or claimed as such by the potential enemy. Among the groups specifically organized and actively working for this purpose with the cooperation of the Army and the FBI were the Committee for Inter-Racial Unity in Hawaii, Oahu Citizens Committee for Home Defense and the Honolulu Police Contact Group under Capt John A. Burns.

The activities of the Committee were many and varied and were geared to meet the changing conditions and emerging problems as the war progressed. Among them were the following:

1. It arranged for and conducted numerous meetings throughout Oahu to discuss the many problems facing those of Japanese ancestry, encourage positive attitudes and active participation in the war effort, clarify rumors, explain and interpret various military government orders affecting them and in general help maintain their morale particularly during the early part of the war.

2. It met with the leaders and organizations of other racial groups in the community to solicit their understanding and support and to work with them in maintaining Hawaii’s traditional pattern of inter-racial harmony despite the emotional strains of the war.

3. It worked closely with the military authorities on matters pertaining to the people of Japanese ancestry — e.g.,

a. Interpreting to them the feelings and attitudes of both the aliens and citizens and assuring them of their complete loyalty to the United States.

b. Suggesting ways in which this large segment of the population could and should be used in the war effort with particular reference to full military service by the citizens.

c. Actively assisting them in implementing plans for military service by the AJA’s — e.g., securing volunteers for the 442nd Combat Team and the Interpreter groups sent for training on the mainland.

d. Helping with the presentation of posthumous awards to the next of kin of men killed in action.

e. Helping the first two internee groups sent to the mainland communicate with their families prior to their departure. A member of the Committee, Dr. Ernest Murai, and his wife also accompanied the first group of repatriating families to Ashville, N.C. at the request of the Red Cross and the Army.

4. It assisted the Morale Section in organizing an emergency service committee on each of the other islands. Delegates from all the island committees met together from time to time to coordinate their efforts and in June, 1944 set up a central coordinating office in Honolulu known as the Territorial Emergency Service Committee.

5. It participated in and often times initiated community projects designed to further the war effort and to secure for the AJA’s their rightful place as full-fledged Americans during and after the war — e.g.,

a. It assisted in community drives for war bonds, blood plasma and war relief funds.

b. It helped to secure volunteers for the “Keawe Corps”.

c. It worked with the trustees of Japanese language schools, Shinto shrines and other alien organizations in formulating plans for voluntary dissolution.

d. It conducted quiet campaigns to minimize public display of Japanese signs, speech and customs that tended to irritate other racial groups.

e. It raised money for various projects such as: A Christmas fund for the 100th Inf. Bn. in 1942 and a similar fund for all the AJA units (100th, 442nd, Interpreters, Engineers, etc.) in 1943 and 1944, a Christmas fund for all servicemen in local service hospitals in 1943, a welfare fund for the trainees at Fort Snelling, and funds for theatre curtains at Camp Savage and the Aloha USO at Hattiesburg. A total of approximately $50,000 was raised for these and other purposes affecting mostly the AJA’s in the Army.

f. It initiated moves which (1) led the War Dept. to grant rotation furloughs to the men of the 100th in Hawaii rather than on the mainland as originally planned; (2) persuaded military authorities to allow an early group of AJA interpreters enroute to the war zone to see their relatives and friends in Honolulu rather than be confined on board ship; (3) resulted in the erection of a temporary war memorial on the grounds of the Terr. Office Bldg. in Honolulu; and (4) with the assistance of the Governor, Legislature and certain community leaders, led finally to the creation of the Terr. Council on Veteran Affairs and the Hawaii Veterans Memorial Fund.

6. It assisted the Police Contact Group in sponsoring a luau on January 24, 1943 for all Wisconsin service men stationed in Honolulu in appreciation of the hospitality extended by the people of Wisconsin to the 100th Inf. Bn. at Camp McCoy.

7. It sponsored a public reception honoring the first two returning wounded veterans of the 100th Bn., James G. Funakoshi and Charles N. Takenaka, on April 30, 1944. Receptions were also held, with the assistance of the Women’s War Service Association, for Lt Col Farrant L. Turner and Capt Jack Mizuha when they returned from the war front.

8. It was instrumental in sending Hung Wai Ching on two trips to Washington to discuss with Pres. Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, Ass’t Sec. of War McCloy and others certain problems affecting the AJA’s in Hawaii and in the armed forces. Mr. Ching stopped enroute at Camp Shelby to visit with the men of the 442nd and talk to certain leaders in the surrounding communities. Later, the Committee sent him to Washington again on behalf of Bob Shiver’s appointment as Collector of Customs in Honolulu.

9. Certain members of the Committee and Mr. Ching met with Mrs. Roosevelt in Honolulu early in 1943 to brief her on matters relating to the people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii. The Committee was started with the following members: Masaji Marumoto, Shigeo Yoshida, Masa Katagiri, Dr. Ernest Murai, Y. Baron Goto, Dr. Katsumi Kometani and Jack K. Wakayama.

Others were added to the Committee from time to time: Dr. James Kuninobu (Mar., 1942); Herman Hosoi, Mitsuyuki Kido, Dr. Robert Komenaka, Katsuro Miho, Iwao Miyake, Stanley Miyamoto and Dr. Shunzo Sakamaki (Aug., 1942); Walter Mihata (July, 1943); Ernest Furukawa and Robert Murakami (Aug., 1944); Tadashi Haga, Shigeru Hirotsu, Robert Ishikawa, Shigeo Mikami, Keiji Suzuki, Shizuo Onishi, Yoshito Matsusaka, Dr. Masao Kanemaru and Masao Watanabe (Oct., 1944).

Marumoto, Kometani, Goto and Mihata left the Committee to serve in the Army; Wakayama, Hosoi, Sakamaki and Kuninobu resigned.

Did the Committee fill a real need? How effective was its work? Could some other group or organization been more effective?

It is not the purpose of this writer to answer these questions. Full evaluation of the Committee must come from sources more competent and objective. In the meantime, here are the words of several individuals who were closely associated with the Committee or in a position to judge its work.

Col Kendall J. Fielder, assistant chief of staff for military intelligence throughout the war (now a retired brigadier general and residing in Honolulu), wrote on March 29, 1944:

“I have observed the work of the Emergency Service Committee since its beginning in February, 1942. I know well the difficulties the Committee has had to face, the long and hard hours put in by the members and their associates in various sections of the community, the work it has accomplished and the task that lies ahead.

“These men are working without remuneration and with no thought of reward. They have my full confidence and support. The Army appreciates their assistance, and I know that when the work of the Committee is fully known, the entire Territory and particularly the people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii will be proud of them.

“Hawaii’s traditional friendship among races must be preserved. Race must never be a barrier to the discharge of one’s responsibility as a citizen. The Americans of all races can and must work together. Each must do his share toward ultimate victory.

“I know that the work of the Emergency Service Committee and similar organizations on the other islands has contributed materially toward this end.”

Robert L. Shivers, special agent in charge of the FBI in Hawaii when the war started and later Collector of Customs in Honolulu, testified at the statehood hearing in Honolulu on Jan. 15, 1946:

“Its accomplishments are too numerous to mention. Suffice to say that its influence was positively American, its work appreciated by the community, the Army and the FBI and its contribution toward maintenance of inter-racial unity in Hawaii during the critical years of the war outstanding.”

Charles R. Hemenway, for may [sic] years chairman of the Univ. of Hawaii Board of Regents and one of the most prominent and respected business and political leaders Hawaii has ever known, a confident and friend to scores of former University students who are now among the key figures in the State of Hawaii, said in February, 1945:

“If the Committee had not organized and gone actively to work, it is my belief that racial misunderstanding and friction would have increased to such an extent that serious and perhaps permanent harm would have resulted with a growth of intolerance, prejudice and bitter racial feeling. Your Committee has done a splendid job in maintaining morale and courage among our Japanese residents and in acting as a liaison group between them and other parts of the community.”

Riley R. Allen, editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, wrote early in 1945:

“The work of the Emergency Service Committee appeals to me as among the most constructive and most quietly effective community jobs done anywhere in Hawaii during World War II.”

Capt Jack Mizuha of the 100th Inf. Bn. spoke these words at the Terr. Conference of Emergency Service Committees in July, 1944:

“In conclusion, it is proper for me on behalf of the 100th Inf. Bn. (Sep.) to thank this great volunteer organization for the work it has been doing here in the territory over a period of years. The public rarely gives proper credit to groups who are working on the home front, and I am afraid that the importance of the work of this committee has been seldom appreciated by the average citizen. However, as soldiers, we have benefited tremendously from your conscientious effort. Your work has the support of every thinking serviceman away from home. God grant you the courage and strength to carry on despite adverse criticism and disappointment, to enable us all to meet the great challenge of our generation and prove we are all Americans here in Hawaii.”

Obviously, the Committee could not have functioned effectively, if at all, without the support and assistance of the military authorities, FBI, community leaders of all racial groups, other service organizations, the news media and the Japanese community at large. There were also the Women’s War Service Association in Honolulu, the Honolulu Police Contact Group, an emergency service committee on each of the other islands and district committees of AJA leaders in many of the local communities all working for the same goals in coordination with the Oahu Emergency Service Committee.

Designation changed to 100th Inf. Bn. (Sep.) as soon after arrival in Camp McCoy. Hawaiian counterpart coined, “One Puka Puka”, came under command of the 2nd Army. Staged in McCoy from June 1942 to December 1942. Superior rating in all field tests while there.

The bulging Company D composed of all AJA’s of the former 299th Inf Regt from islands outside of Oahu were thinned out by the formation of Companies E and F at the New Camp McCoy. We were now 6 companies (rifles) strong!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Therefore, had fights with the 2nd Army personnel as well as the Texas 2nd Div when they moved in. Indulged in traveling all over the country side while off-duty, La Crosse, Winona, Black River Falls, O’Claire, Wisconsin Dells, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, New Orleans. GO-FOR-BROKE! After all, we were living on “borrowed time” anyway, so why not make the most of it!

Turner’s voice rang in our ears: “YOU CAN’T DRINK WISCONSIN DRY, SO DON’T TRY!” While staging here undergoing basic training, the officers and enlisted personnel of the 100 incubated the idea of forming a post-war organization to perpetuate the friendship forged in Uncle Sam’s armed force.

A baseball time [sic] was formed. A boxing team was formed too. And these teams competed with groups in the surrounding communities.