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The following is a short story based on a conversation I had with my late stepdad, Thomas Watanuki, about his experiences from the coastal hills of Orange County, to the Concentration Camps in Montana and Utah, to the march on Messina. A sad postscript, Thomas' elderly father died in Camp while Thomas was overseas...

Thomas Watanuki
26 April 1923 - 27 July 2012

The Four Forty Second

by

Justice Putnam

"A Jap's a Jap. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen or not. I don't want any of them . Racial affiliations are not severed by migration. The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second - and third-generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become 'Americanized,' the racial strains are undiluted."

-- Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt

"It was a time when some of us had to take extraordinary steps when our Constitution did not require it, to prove to our neighbors that we were worthy of being called Americans. The price was very heavy. There was much blood that had to be shed. But looking back, I can say with pride that I was part of it."

-- Senator Daniel Inouye

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Thomas Matsui hadn't slept for almost 46 hours. The Italians had long stopped the fight, but the Nazis kept at it. Mortar shells exploded nearby with a frightening consistency. The rocky Italian hillside bucked and rolled with each explosion.

Battle has an uncanny affect on a soldier; it becomes a kind of tedium. The first month of a soldier's battle is the worst, it all being so new. The mortality rate is highest during that first month. After six months, with bombs exploding around the battlement, a soldier will daydream.

Thomas Matsui thought of his family's orange and avocado orchards rustling in the warm coastal breeze. He thought of the smell of his mother cooking rice in the farmhouse just above Pacific Coast Highway near Balboa. He conjured his father in the workshop, standing at the grinding wheel, sharpening the tools.

Those were daydreams that made the tedium of battle tolerable. But Thomas Matsui had other daydreams that were not so idyllic.

He saw his parents crestfallen from the notice tacked on the farmhouse. Civilian Exclusion Order Number 33 gave only two days to sell the farm before the Military evacuated them to the camp in Montana. He remembered the offer that came from The Irvine Company later that day. Mere pennies on the dollar for what the farm was worth.

He remembered the drive to the Civilian Control Station in Los Angeles, his mother crying the whole thirty miles. Twenty years growing avocados and oranges; all gone in a day. Twenty years and all the possessions acquired; gone in a day. Only allowed bedding and linens, some kitchen utensils and clothes; twenty years of Thomas Matsui's life was spent on that farm. He was born there. It was lost in a day.

The Nazis increased the frequency of the mortar attack and shook Thomas Matsui out of his reverie. He knew Marines on the other end of the hillside were getting the brunt of the bombing. The Four Forty Second though, were well hid and dug in. Soon the bombing would cease and the real battle would commence. There would be no time to daydream then.

Thomas Matsui chuckled at the memory of the military recruiter who came to his camp that Thursday in June. How fresh-faced and upright he was; the perfect embodiment of American righteousness. Thomas and his family had been at the camp for a month and life was a brutal series of bad weather and racist guards. The chance to escape that prison, with the hopeful promise of making his parent's life easier was too great to pass up. If he fought hard and patriotically, maybe the war would end sooner and his parents would no longer be incarcerated.

But the farm and all they had was lost. No, not really lost; in effect stolen. But that did not matter any longer. He wanted this war to end so his parents would not suffer any more.

The mortar attack suddenly stopped. Thomas Matsui shouldered his rifle and aimed down the hillside.

The real battle was about to begin.

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

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Justice Putnam Self-Portrait / copyright Justice Putnam

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(12-String Ovation Balladeer Astoria, Oregon / copyright Justice Putnam)

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Wow, I'm sick of doubt
Live in the light of certain
South
Cruel bindings.
The servants have the power
Dog-men and their mean women
Pulling poor blankets over
Our sailors

I'm sick of dour faces
Staring at me from the tv
Tower, I want roses in
My garden bower; dig?
Royal babies, rubies
Must now replace aborted
Strangers in the mud
These mutants, blood-meal
For the plant that's plowed.

They are waiting to take us into
The severed garden
Do you know how pale and wanton thrillful
Comes death on a strange hour
Unannounced, unplanned for
Like a scaring over-friendly guest you've
Brought to bed
Death makes angels of us all
And gives us wings
Where we had shoulders
Smooth as raven's
Claws

No more money, no more fancy dress
This other kingdom seems by far the best
Until it's other jaw reveals incest
And loose obedience to a vegetable law.

I will not go
Prefer a feast of friends
To the giant family.

-- Jim Morrison
"The Severed Garden"

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Voices and Soul appears on Black Kos Tuesday's Chile; poetry chosen and critiqued by Black Kos Poetry Editor Justice Putnam.

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(Cut Stones and Arch St Ceneri, France / copyright Justice Putnam)

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Question: Who is your audience? What are you here for?

Answer: Tribal Alliances, Heart-felt Convictions, Passionate Reason, Random Abandon, Sustainable Civility and a kiss; to comfort the sad and the mad Ones; the Ones roaming the International section of the American Supermarket at night; or roaming the neglected streets looking for an angry malaprop to sink their teeth into; the Ones who seek without seeking and learn as much as they teach; the Ones who embrace and kiss and embrace again; the Ones who sing the song of the city and the ballads of the forest; the Ones who chant the rhythm of the sea and hum the melody of the desert; the Ones who sing the prayer of Her name and Her name is the World. Yes, those are the Ones.    -- JP

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(Man, Girl and Broken Window Klamath Falls, Oregon / copyright Justice Putnam)

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(Can you help folks in need heat their homes and cook their food on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations. Navajo has an important diary posted with all the particulars. Even a small amount can work towards building the minimum.

Could you please help?)

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So that explains it... !

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Sunlight and Water Pitcher Muir Beach / copyright Justice Putnam

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... Or does it?

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(Holy Bible and 3 in 1 Oil Berkeley, California / copyright Justice Putnam)

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(Rail Road Crossing, Sonoma California / copyright Justice Putnam)

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"Many heroes lived before Agamemnon, but they are all unmourned, and consigned to oblivion, because they had no bard to sing their praises."

 -- Horace

"Still the race of hero spirits pass the lamp from hand to hand."

-- Charles Kingsley

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Rest in Peace Aaron Swartz

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(Morning Fog And Surf, Muir Beach, California / copyright Justice Putnam)

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Originally posted to The Justice Department on Netroots Radio.com on Mon May 27, 2013 at 10:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Netroots Radio.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude -- Pablo Neruda / Listen to The After Show and The Justice Department on Netroots Radio

    by justiceputnam on Mon May 27, 2013 at 10:30:08 AM PDT

  •  In Los Angeles, in Little Tokyo, there is a... (4+ / 0-)

    ...memorial to the Japanese Americans who served, including those in the 442nd. It was approved in 1988, but it took until '99 before it was dedicated:

    This is inscribed on the face of the monument.
    Rising to the defense of their country, by the thousands they came – these young Japanese American soldiers from Hawaii, the states, America's concentration camps – to fight in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. Looked upon with suspicion, set apart and deprived of their constitutional rights, they nevertheless remained steadfast and served with indomitable spirit and uncommon valor, for theirs was a fight to prove loyalty. This legacy will serve as a sobering reminder that never again shall any group be denied liberty and the rights of citizenship. – Ben H. Tamashiro
    I only vaguely knew the story of the Japanese internment until I met my friend Kathy Kanda in the early '70s. Her parents had been removed from California to Camp Amache in Granada, Colo., during the war. They subsequently settled further north on the eastern plains of the state, truck-farmers for the rest of their lives.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Mon May 27, 2013 at 01:54:00 PM PDT

  •  This country has done so much to so many of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    andalusi

    its own people -- but the people have always been better than the government deserved, from the 442nd to the Tuskegee Airmen and the Red Tails.

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Tue May 28, 2013 at 12:27:43 PM PDT

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