“Japanese Americans in WWII – from Incarceration to Military Service”

The members of VFW Post 406, Newport, invite the public to a special presentation, Thursday, January 19th. Our first lecture of 2023 will discuss an often-overlooked part of our American history – the experiences and contributions of Japanese Americans during WWII.

“You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice—and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win—to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time.”

– President Harry S. Truman when addressing the 442nd Regiment

After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the empire of Japan, 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned in incarceration camps scattered throughout the western U.S. A full two-thirds of these people were American citizens, though they were not trusted by the U.S. public and government because of their ethnicity. Japanese in America were considered to be a threat to American security and potential enemies of the country. Despite the government’s suspicions, Japanese Americans were given an opportunity to volunteer for military service and large numbers were later drafted through the selective service system. The response of Japanese Americans was varied, but eventually, some 30,000 Japanese Americans were in uniform during the war, serving in both the European and Pacific theatres. They were honored eventually for their record of service. This is the story of their valor and heroism.

This lecture will be delivered by two speakers:

Ken Nomiyama is committed to tell the story and make the public aware of the history and plight of Japanese Americans during WW II. He is Japanese American, born during WW II at Tule Lake, California, one of the ten incarceration camps established by the U.S. Government. He is on the board of the Tule Lake Committee and is involved in issues relating to race and minorities. He is a retired businessman living in Newport.

James McIlwain is a student of Japanese American history with a special interest in the military service of Japanese Americans during WWII. He has visited the sites of all the camps and, together with a group of WWII veterans, toured the locations in Italy and France where they had fought.  He is a life member of the Japanese American Veterans Association, an honorary member of Fox-Company Chapter of the 442nd Veterans Club of Honolulu, and Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience, Brown University. 

Ken Nomiyama and James McIlwain, together, have presented the story of Japanese American history throughout the New England area.  They have spoken at Salve Regina, URI, UConn, Brown University, the Woonsocket Museum of Work and Culture, local public schools and libraries, and several private organizations.

The lecture will be held at the Newport Elks Lodge 104, 141 Pelham St, Newport RI, and is open to all to attend.

Please arrive at 5:00 pm. Light hors d’oeuvres will be provided as well as access to a cash bar.  The lecture begins promptly at 6:00 PM.

The suggested donation of $10.00 supports local Veteran programs and activities.

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