An Issue of Personal Justice

Some young internees joined the military as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat team, an all-Japanese unit. It was the most decorated military unit for its size and length of service.

A small number, known as the Fair Play Committee, refused to sign a loyalty questionnaire (required for military service) unless their families’ constitutional rights were restored. A group of 63 were tried in Wyoming courts, convicted and sentenced to three years in federal penitentiaries. Their leaders were charged with counseling others to evade the draft and also found guilty.

In December 1945, their convictions were overturned based on a technicality. President Harry Truman pardoned the entire group in 1946.

Personal Justice Denied

In 1980, the U.S. Congress formed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The subsequent investigation included the testimony of 750 witnesses and a Congressional report published in 1983 titled “Personal Justice Denied.”

They found that the incarceration was unwarranted and unjust. The report recommended an official apology be made and redress payments of $20,000 be given to survivors of the camps. In addition, an education fund should be created to increase public awareness about the camps and the issues of civil liberties and justice.

But getting the report turned into law took a great many people working together.

In 1987 the Civil Liberties Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It might not have passed had it not been for two men who had met while Boy Scouts in Wyoming during the war.

Alan Simpson (Cody) and Norman Mineta (Heart Mountain) had met each other during World War II when Boy Scout troops in Cody and Heart Mountain met and worked together.

Forty years later, Mineta was representing his California district in the U.S. House of Representatives and Simpson was representing Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. Their early friendship as Scouts helped the two work together to sponsor the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation, enacting into law the recommendations in the earlier report, “Personal Justice Denied.”

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