"Suffering Under a Great Injustice": Ansel Adams's Photographs of
Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar
Japanese-American Participation in World War II
Adams's portrait and description of Nobutaro Harry Sumida show that Japanese Americans demonstrated loyalty to the United States through military service as early as the Spanish-American War. Born in New York in 1872, Sumida, the oldest resident at Manzanar, served as Seaman 1st Class on the U.S.S. Indiana during this war. A wound received during the battle of Santiago Bay left him permanently disabled. Search on Sumida for a series of photographs of this veteran at the Manzanar hospital.
The collection's other military portraits testify to the Japanese-American contribution to World War II. In January,1943, a Japanese-American combat team was formed. It included the 100th Infantry and the 442nd Combat Unit, which was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in United States military history.
Some of the people who served on the combat team had families living at Manzanar. Robert Yonemitsu's family displayed the soldier's portrait and letters next to a religious icon in their home in Manzanar. When Pfc. Frank Nobuo Arikawa was killed in action on the Italian front, he was survived by his two brothers, also in the military, and his mother who lived at Manzanar, according to the Manzanar Free Press.
Adams's discussion of the Japanese-American contribution to the war effort includes statements by Manzanar residents about the significance of that contribution. He quotes Red Cross Nurse Catherine Natsuko Yamaguchi, speaking about the Japanese-American combat team:
They will help more than anyone else in fostering goodwill and making others feel that the Japanese-Americans are Americans also. The sons and daughters of those fighting in the army will be able to hold their heads up and say proudly, 'My father also helped in the war for democracy!'
Read through the rest of this section on the Japanese-American combat team for more photographs and information about this and other contributions to the war effort.
- Why do you think a separate combat unit was created just for Japanese Americans?
- Why was the Japanese-American contribution to World War II particularly important to the Japanese-American population at that time?
- What reasons would Japanese Americans have had for wanting to serve in the military during World War II?
- What sorts of military assignments would you have expected Japanese Americans to have gotten?
- In Hawaii, the Japanese-American population was so great that evacuating them to internment camps would have ruined the economy. Thousands volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service or the Japanese-American 100th Battalion of the Army. Why do you think so many people in Hawaii volunteered?