Page 1 of 2 INTERVIEW Revisiting Japanese-American internment American historian Linda Goetz Holmes' meeting with an Australian prisoner of
Japan led her to solve some mysteries of World War II and now she debunks the
charge that the internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans after the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was entirely wrong. She speaks
to Asia Times Online contributor Victor Fic.
Victor Fic: Linda, you were honored as a Pacific War historian
... summarize your career highlights.
Linda Holmes: I am a native of White Plains, New York. I earned a
Wellesley College BA in English literature and a minor in history. I am a
career journalist, writing for national magazines and editing at the CBS
Television Network for five years. Radio
shows in the US and Australia and the History Channel have interviewed me.
I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee and several state legislatures.
Also, I was honored as the first Pacific War historian appointed to the Nazi
War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Records Interagency Working Group (IWG) under
the aegis of The National Archives. The IWG was established by president Bill
Clinton's executive order following passage by congress of the Nazi War Crimes
and Japanese Imperial Records Act of 2000.
It had government and military agencies declassify World War II (WWII)
documents and presented its final report to congress in 2007. I am the author
of three books about Allied prisoners of war (POWs) in Japanese custody during
WWII, namely: 4,000 Bowls of Rice: A Prisoner of War Comes Home ; Unjust
Enrichment: American POWs Under the Rising Sun ; and Guests of the
Emperor: The Secret History of Japan's Mukden POW Camp . Also, I am
the past president of America's oldest press club, the Society of the
VF:Guests of the Emperor solves what happened to the 150
American prisoners of war (POWs) marched from the Mukden camp in 1944 ... [The
Japanese military set up a POW camp in Mukden, Manchuria (northeast China - now
Shenyang), where 1,202 American POWs arrived in November of 1942 from Manila
via Pusan, Korea. It would eventually hold almost 2,000 Allied POWs].
LH: They were not executed as some of their fellow POWs feared
but were taken to a camp in Kamioka, Japan, because POW discipline was better
maintained by British POW officers. The other major finding is my ability to
prove, for the first time in English, that the medical teams that visited
Mukden camp three times in 1943 were, indeed, from the infamous bio-warfare
Unit 731. Evidence shows the Unit 731 medical teams did visit the Mukden camp
three times in 1943, and conducted experiments on some American POWs, the most
extreme example being Herman Castillo. But whether any of the transferees were
among those experimented upon, I cannot say.
VF: What was Castillo's fate? Was he the only one?
LH: He was placed in a cage for two weeks and repeatedly injected
with unknown toxins. He could not bathe or use the toilet. Castillo suffered
from mysterious health problems for the rest of his life. See chapter three
entitled "Man in a Cage", in Guests of the Emperor.
VF: It is rare for a female to write on such themes. What draws
LH: The first POW I met was an Australian survivor of the
building of the Burma railway in Thailand. We became friends, and after he
died, his wife gave me his first 15 letters home after liberation, while
awaiting transport back to Australia. I wrote my first book, 4,000 Bowls of Rice,
using each letter as the center of a chapter. My second book, Unjust Enrichment,
followed after I discovered that the POWs shipped to Japan were slave laborers
for private companies.
VF: So their plight struck you?
LH: Yes, I felt sympathy for them and that their story had not
been fully told. For example, I discovered that in February 1942, the Japanese
government ordered companies using white POWs to pay the prisoners wages
comparable to their rank as soldiers in the Japanese army. This was not done,
despite monthly reports that the companies filed with the government saying
So I maintain those companies still owe our POWs money, and have made no effort
to pay. That is why I titled my second book Unjust Enrichment. That is a
legal term which goes back to Biblical times: if you use someone's labor
without paying him, you are enriching yourself unjustly.
VF: Regarding the internment in the US, you insist that not all
the incarcerated were US citizens, correct?
LH: In his book, Magic: The Untold Story of US Intelligence and
the Evacuation of Japanese Residents From the West Coast During WWII,
author David Lowman states that of 112,000 Japanese living on the West Coast in
February 1942, 40,869 were aliens and 71,484 - children - were citizens of both
the US and Japan.
The non-citizens could not apply for citizenship until 1957. But the redress
movement that the the Japan American Citizens League (JACL) led distorted this.
It demanded and received an official US government apology in 1988 and
compensation at US$20,000 per person. It presented all the internees as
citizens as if it was flat-out wrong for Americans to intern their fellows.
Unfortunately, Lowman has passed away, but I know his findings.
Linda Goetz Holmes signs copies of one of her books at a Veterans Day event in
Fredonia, New York in November 2007.
VF: You add that there were material signs of espionage or
preparation for it ... such as?
LH: For example, in early 1942, FBI [Federal Bureau of
Investigation] agents inspected a Japanese home in California and found two
refrigerators: one filled with food, the other with radio equipment. Agents
inspecting a Japanese farm, also in California, discovered uniforms and guns
stacked in a barn. The information is from FBI reports.
In January 1941, Japanese consulates throughout the US were ordered to set up
espionage nets. In March 1941, a message to Tokyo reported that "reliable
Japanese" were employed in aircraft factories. Plus, Japanese residents were
observing activity at military bases, shipyards and ports.
VF: The Japanese-American Senator Daniel Inouye also furnishes
proof, you find.
LH: Lowman on page 11 also quotes from Senator Daniel Inouye's
book Journey to Washington. He recalls that he was thrown out of his
Japanese school in Hawaii after he objected to the pro-Japanese rhetoric being
taught. His own words are that the students were indoctrinated with messages
such as, "You must remember that only a trick of fate has brought you so far
from your homeland, but there must be no question of your loyalty. When Japan
calls, you must know that it is Japanese blood that flows in your veins."
VF: What about your charge that some openly backed the emperor?
LH: Approximately 8,000 Japanese declared their loyalty to the
emperor, and most were interned at Camp Livingston, Louisiana.
VF: Also, you insist that US intelligence sources picked up much
incriminating data ... please specify.
LH: During the war years, intelligence came from the Office of
Navy Intelligence, Army Military Intelligence, the FBI and the code-breaking
services of the Army Signal Corps and the Office of Naval Communications. The
combined intelligence was given the code name MAGIC. Lowman gives 30 sample
intercepts, 10 each from the FBI, the Army Military Intelligence Division and
the Office of Naval Intelligence.