ARTICLES: Mostly Ignored Voices
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Japanese-American Episcopalians During World War II: The Congregation of St. Mary’s Los Angeles, 1941-1945
Joanna B. Gillespie, 2009
“We had just come out of church after the first service, and people were going in for the second [on] Sunday morning, 7 December 1941. A man rushed into the patio and told us the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. We were stunned. We couldn’t believe it. We didn’t know what to do.”1
The Rev. John H. M. Yamazaki, recalling that moment fifty years later, was a newly ordained deacon at the time, assisting his father, the Rev. John Yamazaki, who in 1907 had been the founding pastor of this Episcopal Mission to Japanese immigrants in Los Angeles. On that date St. Mary’s parish register listed four services: 7:30 A.M. Holy Communion, 9:30 A.M. Sunday School, 10:00 A.M. Morning Prayer in English, and 11:00 A.M. Holy Eucharist in Japanese. Someone had later added in bold script, Emergency: News that Japan unwarrantedly attacked America came after the morning service.
By 1941, St. Mary’s, having begun as a house church on Flower Street, was a church building on Mariposa Street with a bustling congregation averaging a hundred families per Sunday. Located in one of a half dozen defacto segregated sections of the city, hand-lettered signs had warned “Japs Keep Moving: This is a White Man’s Neighborhood,” during the Depression. The teen-age Yamazaki boys, John Jr. and his next younger brother James, recollected “dawn patrols” around the church to remove the posters claiming property values would plummet if St. Mary’s was allowed to build a new multi-use parish hall. A half-century after the trauma of Pearl Harbor, John Jr. recalled: “My father went into the…second service and…had to tell the congregation what they had not yet heard [because of] being on the way to church. I went into the rectory and began receiving the calls that kept coming throughout the day” — a reference to St. Mary’s function as an information source for the wider Japanese community.2
After high school young John (1914-1998), eldest of four Yamazaki children, graduated from UCLA in 1938; nearly a third of his Japanese-American companions similarly went on to college despite being officially barred from the professions. His gregariousness and enthusiasm served him well in gymnastics and clubs as well as in academics. Seminary experiences at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific provided him with first-hand training in urban sociology, for example riding in police cars on night duty, as well as scripture and theology. After graduating in May 1941, he was ordained by Bertrand Stevens, bishop of Los Angeles, and Robert B. Gooden, suffragan bishop; both of whom embodied genuine opposition to the prevailing journalistic xenophobia.3
By the 1940s, St. Mary’s neighborhood was occupied by other ethnic minorities, and more Japanese who were Buddhist than were Episcopalian. Most Japanese immigrants had entered American wage labor as domestics, shopworkers, and day laborers — especially as gardeners, “because all you needed was a hoe” and perhaps a bicycle that could be ridden with a lawnmower balanced across the shoulders. St. Mary’s “Christian Americanization” programs were widely regarded as helpful to immigrants for their multi-pronged provision of kindergarten instruction in English, Boy Scouts, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, Girls Friendly Society, the Chrysanthemum Club, sports teams, and adult courses that combined church affiliation with patriotism. The congregation’s “stunned” disbelief over Pearl Harbor offered mute testimony to the depth of their assimilation.4
This case study of an urban Japanese Episcopal congregation during World War II is one story within the larger crucible of World War II evacuation and internment for citizens of Japanese heritage. It dramatizes the complex loyalties and tensions confronting those who were church members as well as the institutional responses of the national church and local Episcopalians. The lives of St. Mary’s two Yamazaki clergy, father and son, spanning the twentieth century, illustrate the cultural, generational, and religious-institutional transitions encompassed in that era. For example, immigrant Yamazaki Sr. (1884-1985) preached and conducted his pastoral work primarily in Japanese, while his American-born son who succeeded him as rector in 1956, preached entirely in English and participated in the decision to drop “Japanese” from the parish’s official name. Father, son, and the majority of St. Mary’s congregation viewed themselves as cooperative, productive Americans. Their patriotism deepened their agony over the February 1942 Executive Order 9066 that authorized military removal and imprisonment of more than 110,000 West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry.
The Episcopal Church’s response to this historically unprecedented action was part of the general Protestant response as analyzed by Sandra C. Taylor. First came a subdued acquiescence to plans for relocating and incarcerating the Japanese population; next, individuals and denominations offered to help within the camps themselves; finally, churches helped organize the resettling of internees outside the camps.5
The cultural hegemony that permitted such a wartime strategy is today being analyzed by a new generation of historians, including the children of those interned. To date, the case of the Episcopal Church and its Japanese members has not been studied.6
This research was inspired by fifty-year-old memories of St. Mary’s upheaval, particularly the generosity accorded women of St. Mary’s by their African-American Baptist neighbors. When in early 1942 Japanese-Americans were ordered to prepare for departure, each person was limited to one suitcase. Residents in the apartments around the church offered to store their precious items — boxes of photographs, china, and imported fabrics which were then stacked floor to ceiling in living rooms. This vivid remembrance can be found in 1940s Episcopal journals and magazines. For its part correspondence between the two national officials — Bishop Charles Shriver Reifsnider and the Rev. George Wieland — who were responsible for the Episcopal Church’s theological and organizational ministries to Japanese fellow-Christians, 1942-1945, reveals the church’s evolving response.
From its inception, St. Mary’s had functioned as a spiritual and cultural anchor for its members: preserving their Japanese roots, and providing a cross-cultural bridge into what would become the postwar American mainstream. Episcopalians at St. Mary’s carried into incarceration the sustaining thought that their ecclesiastical fathers in God were with them from Pearl Harbor on. Bishop Stevens publicly voiced his anguish over the erupting conflict with Japan the evening of Pearl Harbor at a joint meeting of young adults from St. Mary’s and St. James’s Church on Wiltshire Boulevard. As the internment policy inexorably unfolded, Japanese-Americans yearned silently for official religious condemnation of it as a violation of Nisei citizenship. Still, ordained and institutionally-rooted Japanese Episcopalians like the Yamazakis were somehow able to differentiate their denomination’s official silence about an oppressive policy, from that policy itself.7
California Episcopalianism, itself following the Gold Rush in 1849, began when William Ingraham Kip, the first Episcopal bishop of California, announced an inclusive vision: “Before the altar of our Lord we are all one, and within the fold of the Church, the distinctions of race or country are all forgotten.” However, he also stated that Chinese workers in San Francisco were “the vilest offscouring of China;” though Kip acknowledged their historic injustice at the hands of white settlers, native American Indians lacked “all independent spirit.” He applauded the Civil War’s banishment of the “curse of slavery” but saw “little hope for permanent elevation of the Negro race.” A man of his era and class, provided with limited denominational resources to cover a vast geography, Kip gave relatively low priority to evangelizing California’s ethnic minorities. Other denominations’ domestic missions were much more energetic in their outreach to immigrants, as documented in Brian Hayashi’s recent study of Methodists in Los Angeles.8
Eleven days before Pearl Harbor, the Episcopal magazine The Living Church
published a contemporary view of its ethnic-minority members. Raymond E. Blight’s “Where East Meets West: St. Mary’s Japanese Mission, Los Angeles,” featured a cover photograph of young Yamazaki in surplice and cassock on the church steps, greeting the Sunday congregation, men in suits and ties, women wearing hats. It was captioned: “Endangered Churchpeople.” The article’s first sentence captured the cultural view that would shortly become a rationale for internment: “California’s unique and perennial problem is the Japanese.” Its implication blamed the Japanese themselves for alienating “Americans” with their strange language, foods, and folkways. Blight praised the Yamazaki clergy who “rapidly increase the work of St. Mary’s…a splendid center of Christian faith and power.” He celebrated as a success story the larger immigrant population (numbering about 40,000 residents), “Little Tokyo,” as “one of the show-places of the city,” with “its own chamber of commerce, service clubs, telephone exchange, daily newspapers and theaters.” But his applause for their prosperous achievements was darkened by the “suspicions of Caucasian fellow-citizens” who refused to hire Japanese help or patronize Japanese tradesmen. As early as 1931, Bishop Stevens had urged Episcopalians to “preserve goodwill” toward their Japanese neighbors.9
In early January 1942, one Californian — Carey McWilliams, chief of the Division of Immigration and Housing for the California State Department of Industrial Relations realized the growing power of the anti-Japanese lobby. He launched public hearings to counter the momentum building for imprisonment.10
In early January 1942, the highest ecclesiastical officer of the Episcopal church, Presiding Bishop Henry St. George Tucker, appointed Bishop Reifsnider, formerly of North Kwanto, Japan, as a roving administrator “in charge of any work that may be possible among the Japanese in this country,” specifically the Japanese-American Episcopalians from nine congregations, eight on the West Coast, one in Nebraska.11
Tucker had in fact unilaterally given de facto
diocesan status to Japanese-American congregations and given them a bishop.
At the first wartime meeting of the church’s National Council in February 1942, monies already budgeted for “Japan work” were redirected to the new ad-hoc
“diocese”. Reifsnider, a much respected forty-year missionary in Japan until forced out in October 1941, had served as president of St. Paul’s University from 1912 to 1940, and helped establish St. Luke’s International Medical Center, both in Tokyo. The National Council expressed “relief” that “the right man” — one with sympathies for and the language of the Japanese, as well as appropriate ecclesiastical status — was available for the denomination’s assistance to its own communicants.12
The bishop, addressing racial implications indirectly, saw his first task as “enlightening certain Americans as to the status of Christian Japanese born here in America.”13
Denominational action in the form and office of a bishop was wordlessly reassuring to Japanese Episcopalians. Nevertheless, West Coast Japanese and those white churchmembers brave enough to sympathize with them publicly felt “trapped in uncertainty…not knowing what is to happen next,” wrote Frances M. Young, then director of religious education for the Episcopal diocese of California, in the 25 February 1942 edition of Living Church.
Alongside her empathetic report the editor felt obliged to insert a boxed note supporting the federal government’s “drastic steps.” However it too censured “the hysteria and hatred [thus] revealed as unworthy of our national cause”
(italics added), and deplored the suffering of fellow churchmen.14
During spring 1942, Reifsnider exercised his considerable organizational and political skills to moderate the evolving internment policies. He proposed that the approximately six hundred Japanese Episcopalians from San Francisco and Los Angeles be housed as a unit, for their mutual support. He negotiated permission with the War Relocation Authority for Episcopalians to conduct their own services of Holy Communion in the camps, in addition to and at a separate time from the interdenominational union service scheduled for all Protestants. He and Bishop Stevens established a fund, “Improved Properties Inc.,” to buy up and preserve real property belonging to Japanese in Southern California, to which interdenominational evacuees could apply.15
In late February 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. National journalists like Westbrook Pegler trumpeted, “The Japanese in California should be under armed guard to the last man and woman right now — and to hell with Habeus Corpus.”
Those states with enough land immediately to house 10,000 evacuees at first resisted, then competed for camps. Any government installation was an economic boost in depressed rural economies. Similarly, state officials who at first denounced employing “enemy” internees began using them to harvest cotton and sugarbeets.16
In the face of his church’s official silence and on the eve of his own deportation, the elder Yamazaki in March 1942 welcomed the diocesan Women’s Auxiliary to St. Mary’s. It was a moment fraught with irony. The Living Church
reporter surmised that a churchwomen’s group was permitted to breach the Federal Bureau of Investigation quarantine of Japanese neighborhoods because “Christian groups in Southern California seem to have the confidence of government authorities.” Yamazaki expressed his deep loyalty to America in the language of a resolution passed in January by the Los Angeles Japanese Clergy Association, of which he was president. Japanese residents felt a “sense of duty and responsibility to the American people at this time of crisis.” War between “the country of our adoption” and “the land of our birth” had crushed the hope that “nothing could break [our] long friendship.” Japanese in America, he declared, knew this privilege, and had striven to lead their young “into the stream of American thought and ideals, and the enriching experience of the Christian way of life.” He concluded: “Even in this tragic hour, we shall strive, with whatever sacrifice we can make,” to bring good out of evil, because as Christians we know that “Whoever would save his life shall lose it.”17
Episcopalians had historically aligned with the country’s leaders, especially in wartime.18
Although individual Anglicans deplored the idea of imprisoning their Japanese neighbors, “military necessity” served as an overwhelming rationalization. And even the most thoughtful Episcopalians, along with white American churches generally, were unused to considering the impact of racial and cultural differences. Joseph Kitagawa, an immigrant in 1937, described twentieth-century American religiosity as a “western Christian religious, political, cultural and social synthesis” that gave “the West…cosmic legitimization to arrange the destiny of the other, non-Anglo world.” Such an attitude explained the lack of real interchange among Anglo and ethnic-minority churches in that era, and Episcopal silence on the immorality of internment. Except for diocesan meetings of church women, Los Angeles Episcopalians and their counterparts in other Protestant churches were largely content with immigrants’ external conformity. The “Anglicization” of “their” Japanese church, St. Mary’s, meant it observed Anglican worship and organization, but it was also expected to “take care of [its] own.”19
Kitagawa viewed the Nisei, typified by young John Yamazaki, as “culturally Occidental but racially Asiatic.” Though “inwardly very American,” they were reared to remain separate, to resist entering the management level of Anglo institutions.20
Unlike the immigrant Kitagawa, Nisei were uniquely vulnerable: born into citizenship yet tied by family loyalty to their ancestral culture. Wrenched from their playgrounds, schools, and corner drugstores to be imprisoned behind barbed wire, they became the rejected “other,” their once-valued bilingual and bi-cultural abilities of no avail. The camp experience, recalled journalist Bill Hosokawa, led Nisei to lose faith in themselves, if not in America. Hosokawa’s own Americanization was complete, he realized, when he could discard his inculcated deference to elders and say, “to hell with my responsibility to everyone else: I’ll live my own life.” In contrast, immigrant parents had received little encouragement to think of themselves in the mainstream of American life.21
Monica Sone, a Nisei, named the required contrast in self-presentations “cultural juggling.” “I found myself switching my personality back and forth daily like a chameleon…At school I was a jumping, screaming, roustabout Yankee, but at the stroke of three, I suddenly became a modest, faltering, earnest little Japanese girl with a small timid voice.” Unlike their setting in older cities, Japanese in Los Angeles often lived in “fairly new…more comfortable homes…the houses were in hakujin
(white people) style, with trees, lawns, and backyards rather than old decrepit buildings in a shabby part of town.” Inside their segregated world, life was comfortable though “at the time we didn’t recognize [it] as an ethnic ghetto in today’s connotation.”22
Within these socio-cultural parameters, urban ethnic congregations like St. Mary’s needed only “inhale a formulaic denominational identity.”23
During the early months of the war, it was obvious “that [Episcopal] churchmen opposed evacuation as a matter of principle,” recalled the Reverend Daisuke Kitagawa. “But nothing was done beyond that…the church [remained] curiously silent, issuing no resolutions, letters to the President or newspapers, or signed petitions.” One historian noted: “It took real courage to speak for the unfortunate Japanese American minority in the spring and summer of 1942.”24
The Episcopal Church’s official administrative action was reassuring, if hardly commanding. Other political and secular groups were more outspoken, including the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation. Mainline denominations, however, remained identified only with the dominant culture.25
Preparing to accompany St. Mary’s congregation into internment, young John Yamazaki was ordained to the priesthood in March 1942. He also married. That same month The Living Church
printed Daisuke Kitagawa’s “Open Letter to Fellow Christians in the USA,” the first Japanese voice in Episcopal-sponsored print, and the first to be critical of internment. He explained the Japanese tradition of “loyally obeying laws imposed on them, no matter how unreasonable or unfair.” He concluded in grief rather than anger: “I can’t help weeping,” not just “for the misery of the Japanese” but for “future generations of Americans.”26
Despite their agreement with such a statement, neither Yamazaki would have articulated that criticism, however patriotic its cast.
Offering a “balanced” view of internment, Galen M. Fisher, secretary for the interdenominational Committee on National Security and Fair Play, praised the “high social standards” behind the evacuation, itself justified because it prevented violence against the Japanese. Fisher commended the officials and “other liberal agencies tempering American policies,” and the founding of a special corporation for protecting Japanese property. He congratulated church leaders for “rising to the situation,” and the Japanese themselves for “notable good sportsmanship.” Fisher’s conclusion struck a contradictory note, however: “Only a Tolstoi could deal with the deep tragedy of it. Wounds too deep for tears” overwhelm Japanese-Americans and shake “their faith in the justice of America, their motherland.”27
On Easter Monday in April 1942, evacuation from the area around St. Mary’s found Yamazaki Jr. accompanied by his new bride. A nearby Congregational minister had urged him to “become a martyr” by resisting relocation, but he was dedicated to his new institutional role and submerged his anger in pastoral duties, at the same time relying on the affirmation of his bishops. His training in how to be American and Episcopalian had been organizational and theological. Internment, however dismaying, would not shake his loyalty. A newspaper photo portrayed a sad caravan of “66 small trucks and cars, 6 large trucks, and 13 public (Pacific Electric) Busses” conveying 700 people from St. Mary’s departure point, “pretty much emptying out the neighborhood of Mariposa Avenue and Olympic Boulevard.” The caravan landed some 18,000 internees at an assembly center housed at the Santa Anita racetracks, in suburban Los Angeles. One Nisei interpreted their subdued departure as the need “to express good feelings rather than bitter ones…Naturally we didn’t like what was happening, but we tried to suppress our feelings, and leave quietly, with goodwill.”28
Many of those transported from St. Mary’s still find the event too traumatic to discuss. Yo Uragami, who was twenty-three at the time, recently was surprised by paralysis in her throat as she watched the television documentary, “Return to Manzanar,” one of the internment camps.29
The evacuees’ sense of abandonment was captured by poet Mitsuye Yamada in an unpunctuated poem titled “TO THE LADY: The one in San Francisco who asked: Why did the Japanese Americans let the government put them in those camps without protest?”:
Come to think of it I
should’ve run off to Canada/ hijacked a plane to Algeria/ pulled myself
up from my /bra straps/ and kicked’m in the groin
-should’ve bombed a bank/ should’ve tried self-immolation…/by AP
You would’ve / come to my aid in shining armor;
laid yourself across the railroad track;/ marched on Washington;
tattooed a Star of David on your arm/
written six million enraged/letters to Congress
But we didn’t draw the line / anywhere/ law and order
Executive Order 9066/ social order/ moral order/ internal order
YOU let’m/ I let’m/ All are punished. (Extracted)
In 1969, Nisei sociologist Harry Kitano analyzed their cooperative exit. “With no one to turn to, with their structures and institutions dismantled, with little political or economic power, with cultural norms and values emphasizing conformity and non-conflictual behavior, with a lack of feasible alternatives and facing the awesome power of the U.S. Government, could they have really done otherwise?”30
Individual Episcopalians had neighborly and pastoral reactions that contrasted sharply with the official tone of amelioration. According to his daughter, Edith Haney, no optimism mollified Bishop Stevens’s outrage. Mrs. Haney recalled her father’s “white hot anger” after he preached at the Santa Anita Assembly Center, during St. Mary’s first stop on their journey to internment. There, congregants bedded down in stalls reeking of the manure no amount of whitewash or disinfectant could erase. June Nakamura, then a teenager, remembered community toilets and showers as an even greater assault on her senses than sleeping in horse stalls. Embarrassed to be naked in relatively public space, she “could barely let the water touch my skin.” Despite Bishop Reifsnider’s plan for billeting St. Mary’s parishioners together, one group accompanied by the newlyweds was assigned to a camp in Gila Bend, Arizona (named Rivers Camp in honor of the first American Indian casualty of World War I), and the other to Jerome, Arkansas, accompanied by the senior Yamazaki and his wife and daughter. A few individuals or families landed in still other camps. Yamazaki Jr., adjusting to his first year of married life and his first church, a room in Barracks 32 at the Arizona Rivers Camps, wore his new clerical collar as he pedaled his bicycle on his parish calls. His ordained status and natural optimism earned him instant respect as a leader. Moreover, his father’s forebodings had strengthened him: “My father knew already in the nineteen-thirties that there were those who would welcome an excuse to drive us out of California. We used to think of the Native Sons of California as our Ku Klux Klan.”31
The 1942 convention of the diocese of Los Angeles showed its concern for the evacuees. “Christians are saddened by the state of the world. Specifically, the Christian Japanese in [America] should not be treated as enemy aliens but as brothers in the Body of Christ,” wrote the chair of the department of social relations. He hailed the “outstanding Christian work” of St. Mary’s as “a telling influence in grounding the loyalty of southern California Japanese to our American ideals.” Suffragan Bishop Gooden’s sermon, the clearest moral statement to that point of theological and ethical issues confronting white Episcopalians, addressed war’s ability to destroy the capacity for being “sensible.” The present flood of propaganda was utterly “incompatible” with a nation of immigrants, especially those from current enemy nations — Germany, Italy, and Japan. “Most are fellow Christians and as innocent of the evil deeds of their former countrymen as we are.” Specifically, “the Japanese have [racial features] that cannot be hidden…We must not be so unsocial and so un-Christian as to use weapons of retaliation, reprisal, and vengeance — the racial practices of a Hitler — upon them” because of their appearance. “Especially do I bespeak your continued friendship and Christian charity for our beloved people of St. Mary’s Japanese Church,” for their “splendid Priest with a quarter-century of devoted Los Angeles work…to his credit,” and his “able and faithful son.” Despite our “unutterable horror for the infamy of Pearl Harbor…we must not let that cause us to punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty.” His conclusion re-emphasized the opening metaphor: “It is hard to be sensible” in wartime, “impossible, without…the Sentry…of God [in our] hearts and minds.”32
Although the term “racism” was not yet standard sermon vocabulary, Gooden’s polite terminology was unmistakable. White bargain-hunters, offering his Japanese friends a paltry $15 for hard-earned refrigerators, washing machines, and radios, offended him. Amidst despair, confusion, and hopelessness, St. Mary’s clergy staunchly affirmed their faith and hope: “the bishops of our diocese have taken a stand in our favor from the beginning.”33
For the rest of 1942, Reifsnider traveled vast distances by train to celebrate the eucharist at remote internment locations, and to smooth interdenominational ruffles in the camps — for example, over Episcopal use of its own (rather than union Protestant) Sunday school materials. Equally, Anglican insistence on its own sacraments was an irritant in the forced ecumenism of the camps. Yet for the hundred or so St. Mary’s parishioners displaced in the Gila, Arizona camp, regular Episcopal worship was a foundational link with home and normality. Located at New York Mission House, Reifsnider’s executive liaison and chief correspondent, the Rev. George Wieland, continually consulted on a wide range of issues, including for example, criteria for Episcopal volunteers wanting to help in the camps. Such women must have “special qualifications [of] tact, emotional stability, deep religious consecration, and the ability to [work interdenominationally].”34
The June 1942 denominational magazine Forth,
intended to promote the missionary spirit and projects of the church, applauded Japanese Episcopalians for confronting their economic destruction and family upheaval “in a spirit of complete cooperation.” The unsigned article declared that the church would “follow and minister to [its interned members], however difficult.” What that meant in practice was supporting the interned Japanese priests who continued to serve, within the camps. One difficulty was the lack of externally identifiable church buildings. Yamazaki Jr.’s church, a room in Block 32 where many of St. Mary’s parishioners lived, became Chapel 32, terminology used by no other denomination. Each Thursday’s Gila News Courier
printed a worship calendar including “Holy Communion, 8 A.M.,” at that location. Yamazaki Jr. enjoyed recalling that his “Episcopal-looking” chapel interior was the envy of his fellow clergy, even the Roman Catholic priest, in the camp. He had hired a Buddhist carpenter to build the altar and cross to his specifications, and his host bishop, Walter Mitchell of Arizona, supplied the hangings and eucharistic vessels.35
It was as visibly a church as he could make it, in the setting.
By contrast, Yamazaki Jr.’s larger parochial scene was a visual insult: “white walled, red roofed barracks in rows, dusty paths, pipelines, withered sageland…dust, sweat, wind, shower-less, lavatory-less, shade-less.” Yet within months, reported the Gila Courier’s First Anniversary Supplement,
internees had transformed the “barrenness” with “bits of lawn, fishponds, rock gardens, trees, awnings, and porches.” The limited interior barracks space per family (8’ x 20’), separated only by drawn curtains, destroyed family privacy. Communal meals in huge dining rooms denied the “little shards of experience [that] bind families together, like children doing their homework on the kitchen table while mother cooks.” Poet Yamada captured that forced spatial intimacy: “Lives spilled over us/ through plaster walls/ came mixed voices./ Bared too/ a pregnant wife/ while her man played go
/ all day/ she sobbed alone/ and a barracksful/ of ears shed tears.”36
The bishops in the dioceses where camps were located — Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming — were responsive. Bishop Mitchell welcomed the Rev. and Mrs. Yamazaki and “some ninety-plus members from St. Mary’s” as an “opportunity” to expand diocesan-wide Christian brotherhood. Even if Arizona State University had just ruled that “the Japanese in those settlements” were enemies and denied admission to their college-age students, he hoped the convention would quickly censure that act, as had the recent meeting of the Presbyterian synod.37
As a result Yamazaki Jr. considered the bishop his lifelong friend.
During 1943, the first full year of internment, St. Mary’s evacuees in Gila could read about the pastoral activities of the Rev. J.H.M. Yamazaki in their camp newspaper: a funeral for five-year-old Jonnie Yagura, a high school discussion titled: “Of What Service Can We Be to the Community?” The young pastor enjoyed building community, proud that distinguished visitors like Eleanor Roosevelt chose to tour their camp. He helped stage celebrations of American holidays (Thanksgiving, Memorial Day) and the interdenominational Christmas pageant “Why the Chimes Rang.” But 1943 was also the year internal camp conflict erupted. At Gila, a cultural and generational gulf emerged between evacuees from educated, urban backgrounds like St. Mary’s (mostly in the Butte Camp section) and rural immigrants (in the Canal Camp section). At the Jerome, Arkansas camp, St. Mary’s senior pastor became a victim of this intra-ethnic rivalry.38
A report on the camps in the January 1943 Forth
was illustrated with photographs of smiling Japanese mothers in tailored shirtdresses and high-heeled shoes, standing by their little sons waving tiny American flags. “Despite the hardships and heartbreak that naturally accompany” such uprooted Episcopalians, the unnamed author asserted that they were the recipients of “courteous and sympathetic treatment from the Government”; in fact the War Relocation Agency was making their “new homes” in the camps “as happy and as comfortable as possible.” In the same issue, Reifsnider assured readers on another score: Japanese in the camps were now safe from false accusations “of sabotage.” His photograph — tall, distinguished, pince-nez topping aquiline features — illustrated his recently completed tour of the relocation centers. He saluted the interned priests — Shoji and Nakajo from Portland; the Kitagawa brothers from Washington state; Tsukamoto from Christ Church, San Francisco; the Yamazakis from Los Angeles; and Hiram Kano from Western Nebraska — as missionaries in “our new mission field”, internment camps.39
In a special issue on California of The Living Church (1943), the section “Racial Work” noted “our distinctive communion service [in the camps], one Sunday in English, the next in Japanese.”40
A letter from Camp Minidoka praised Joseph Kitagawa’s Christmas Eve service in the “recreation hall” decorated so beautifully that “no one would think they were going there
[rather than to a real church]. The altar was lovely, all candles and flowers, and we had a choral Eucharist.” A “consoling message” from the host bishop of that diocese assured us that no matter where we are, “our American friends were really trying to make things easier
for us.” A second letter affirmed the spiritual gift of familiar ritual in an alien setting: “People forgot they were in camp…[there was] a deep reverent sense of worship in spirit and in truth.”41
At the 1943 Los Angeles diocesan convention, Bishop Stevens explicitly cited racism. He pleaded for attitudes shaped by profound religion instead of hatred — attitudes that could sustain “liberal” life views and prevent “racist deformation.” He cited the evils of “Anti-Semitism, distrust of the Negro, proposals to disfranchise loyal Americans of Japanese descent — these are…disquieting manifestations of dangerous currents in American life.”42
Although the term “concentration camp” was not in standard use regarding the internment camps, the 1943 Annual Report of the Directors of the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church
employed the phrase: “Dangerous” Japanese, “regarded as p.o.w.s,” were already “confined in concentration camps.”43
The report’s major focus, however, was the change in missionary strategy. Churches were now being asked to help resettle internees outside the camps, “in small groups in Caucasian communities in the East and in the Midwest.” 1943 thus became the year in which the Wieland-Reifsnider letters initiated theological grappling with the issue of ethnic-minority worshipers in a predominantly Anglo church. Their discussions of race, desegregation, and integration arose in response to the troubles of specific church members when anti-American agitators made them cultural flashpoints. Episcopal clergy and others representing “Americanization” functioned as ignitors.44
The night of 8 March 1943, Yamazaki Sr. was attacked and beaten against the wire fence of his Arkansas camp by “seven gang [members].” He was not seriously injured though his eyes were blackened and his glasses broken. His two letters to Reifsnider, of 8 March and 20 March 1943, form a dramatic set-piece for this middle year of internment. Camp and church authorities were both suddenly confronted with factions and generational conflict within the racially homogeneous population. Writing from the Jerome Center Hospital, Yamazaki’s opening sentence in the first letter presented an uncharacteristic visual signal: “I am in trouble. A very serious one.”
He wrote, in idiosyncratic English that omitted most articles (a, the), of being targeted — along with Dr. Yatabe, a Nisei dentist from Fresno, California — by “gangs” who were “merely stooges sent by strongly organized group against America,” a faction attempting “to get rid of any who urge loyalty or give cooperation to Administration.” Yamazaki’s identity as a Christian pastor and his willingness to assume responsibility had made him an ideal mark. “Christians as a whole are much more cooperative with the Administration, and much more pro-American than non-Christians,” observed a summary report on Community Government in the Relocation Centers. “Being Christian seems to create a greater possibility of identification with American culture,” it noted, inadvertently citing the problem of cultural hegemony. Anti-American agitators were usually Buddhist.45
During the preceding week, John Yamazaki Sr. had served as translator for a visitor explaining the new registration procedures on questionnaires, labeled “leave clearance,” intended to codify internee information. The visitor also hoped to recruit Nisei volunteers for the all-Japanese combat units already formed. “I thought this Center was comparatively quiet one and Block 19 in which I live did register almost all…[Then] Saturday I met this fate. But naturally I was marked as loyal to America.” His co-victim Yatabe was attacked for being elected leader of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), a longstanding American organization scapegoated for “selling out” to the government on internment.46
The families of both men were moved to the hospital for protection.
“I have been [a] marked man since Santa Anita [from where] various false rumors went out about me,” John Yamazaki Sr. continued. He could not identify his attackers well enough “to lead for their arrest…They do not come forward and hiding their identities, try to enjoy Center life until end of the war.” He deplored their “damaging influence [on] loyal Nisei-American citizens.” His fear was a generational coalition that could mount a rebellion within the Jerome camp, as it had in others: “Majority of Kibei [students from America attending high school and college in Japan] and many Issei strongly banded together now.”47
Thirteen days later John Yamazaki Sr. wrote a second, more reflective letter to Reifsnider. He had sent a full report to his bishops (Stevens and Gooden), likening the attack on him to that on The Reverend Daisuke Kitagawa and a Methodist pastor at the Tule Lake Camp. Yamazaki believed that many Hawaiian internees, Marxist enemies of Western Christianity, had been dangerous long before Pearl Harbor. “Most do not speak English, perhaps [they] came to Hawaii in recent years after education in Japan.” In his own camp were “two radical Buddhists…representing the 200 [internees] demanding repatriation from America and openly claiming they are on Japan’s side.” They could be heard “singing Kimigayo [Japan’s national anthem] in the their meetings and shouting ‘banzai’ audible to several blocks.” The Jerome camp administrators were cautious, waiting [to see] what Washington is going to do. Internal Security Japanese police are not on job, so [there is] no inside security at all.” His concern was palpable: “Loyal ones living under intimidation and fear…I do not know how long we can stay here. I would dare to go back to my own Block [in the camp] if [this were] a religious war or persecution (there is certain aspect for it) but the issue is loyal and disloyal.” Like himself, “many [who are] technically alien stand for Democracy and America, urging Nisei to be loyal and read Army message.” Since he had “helped Mr. Taylor in registration,” he was “looked upon as Enemy #2. Dr. Yatabe as #1 which they accuse [for] main course of Japanese evacuation — selling Japanese to America for their own interest
is the way these radicals pass sentence.”48
St. Mary’s parishioners, particularly the lay leader Shunji Nishibayashi, had warned against leaving the safety of the hospital. “Surely a turning point comes to me…You give me your kind advice, secret and personal. WRA holding this from public. Premature bad effect feared.”49
This letter closed, however, with Christian compassion for his enemies: “…I am happy in all my being attacked, thrown to the pool of mud, and repeated knocking on face. I never resisted them. Lord protected me.” A half century later in 1994, John Yamazaki Jr. displayed a drawing done by the camp artist in 1943, depicting his bloodied father in priest’s collar, slumped against the chain-link fence. The Japanese ideographs at the side contained his father’s theologizing of the event: the beating was his sacrifice. “When I received the blow I felt as if my own child was hitting me, for they were my own kind. Each blow reminded me of God’s will teaching me of my own lack of suffering,” his son translated.50
In an analogue for the internment, John Yamazaki Sr. had transformed his attackers into children for whom he was willing to give his life.
Reifsnider and the camp administrators were dismayed. Just when the hundreds of thousands of Japanese were finally settled in the camps, the most useful among them were being vilified. The Christian clergy, Reifsnider’s own deputies, were unmistakably identified with the dominant Anglo-American culture, their cooperation and adaptability turned into opprobrium. A few Nisei in another camp took the step of filing a lawsuit against the government, a case that created far-reaching implications for civil rights litigation two decades later. They were arrested for refusing the military draft because their citizenship rights were denied and their families imprisoned.51
By May 1943, John Yamazaki Sr. could write about the full depth of his rejection by two generations of his people: the Issei, who felt deprived of the respect age should have brought them and were overlooked in administering the camp (because of language); and rebels the age of his sons, who dismissed him as a government pawn. To Reifsnider he listed and numbered, in painful self-assessment, the components of his enemies’ hatred: “1 — my stand before and after evacuation; 2 — my position and leadership at Santa Anita; 3 — my American flag in our Sunday services, also in the federated services; 4 — my opening prayer which Bishop Stevens knows about at the pre-school conference at Jerome; 5 — my speech introducing you when you visited Jerome; 6 — my reading message of US War Department at 6 different mess halls, by request of Mr. Paul Taylor, director, and Dr. McSparran, at Jerome; and 7 — my urging Nisei to register without reservation.” In other words, every action growing out of his loyalty to nation and church had become an indictment. “I have no place to go for the above 7 (sic)
He was a father for whom the beating was a Gethsemane: a profound repudiation religiously, racially, and generationally. The wartime memories of St. Mary’s congregation, symbolized by their senior pastor’s dramatization of Christ’s teaching, were seared with awareness of the costs of dual identity and of assimilation into American life and institutions. By summer, 1943, the elder Yamazaki was removed from camp and appointed another pastoral task: chaplain to Japanese Episcopalians resettling in the Chicago area.
The exodus of individuals from the camps, beginning in 1943, became a church-assisted flood by 1944, setting off a second ideological and cultural disagreement within various groups. Should internees leave or stay? Many congregations and the Friendship Hostels established in some cities assisted the growing diaspora, but then a new concern arose. Reifsnider worried that “too large numbers of Japanese” were accumulating in cities like Denver, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and Detroit. This would require the “integrating of [Japanese-Americans] into Caucasian congregations.” Or, he questioned Wieland, “Should we consider separate congregations?” Wieland’s reply was unequivocal. “I completely disagree with spending the missionary efforts of the church for a Japanese congregation in any one metropolitan area.” Whether or not there were “too many Japanese in one location,” (there were already more than a hundred in Chicago), “the policy of the churches should be integration and not segregation.” Liberal-minded pro-Japanese sympathizers including Eleanor Roosevelt warned the resettlers they
must not re-segregate themselves by driving Caucasians away: resettlement must not create new “ghettos.” Although the concepts of integration, desegregation, and resegregation were now in play, neither Reifsnider nor Wieland thought of challenging Caucasians who disapproved “too many” ethnic-minority Episcopalians wanting to enter their congregations.53
Japanese Americans like the Yamazakis were in a double-bind. Reared to be habitual defenders of all things American, they were unable publicly to criticize their country. Deep Anglo-cultural roots obligated father and son to uncritical institutional loyalty, in contrast with the Kitagawa brothers who had emigrated as young adults.54
Unfortunately, Reifsnider’s 1944 papers — from late Fall 1943 to early 1945 — are not in the archives of the Episcopal Church at Austin, Texas, if they still exist. During that period, teenagers like June Nakamura graduated from high school in the Gila Camps and were introduced to new horizons across the nation, through colleges and schools. They also awakened to their own classification in the nation’s consciousness: they were considered a racial minority just like African-Americans. A Nisei wrote back to the Gila News Courier
suggesting the establishment of a new national bureau, a “Federal Institute of Ethnic Democracy,” to “combat mob hysteria.” Gratifyingly, the spontaneous rise of interracial committees in a number of locations seemed to indicate a mounting change of sensibility toward the Japanese.55
Japanese heroism in the American military played a major role in that shift. Segregated all-Japanese units — the 100th
Infantry Battalion established in 1942, and the 442nd
Regimental Combat Team established in 1943 — became the most highly decorated units in the war. Camp newspapers headlined the praise of generals and testimonials from Anglo soldiers. Celebrating the demise of the “yellow Jap” stereotype, the Gila News Courier
proudly detailed the bravery of Japanese-American soldiers, in addition to equally glowing reports of civilian internees now successfully employed in midwestern cities. In November 1943, a Nisei journalist at the Des Moines Register
noted the changed attitude in a story on the Purple Heart awarded to Kazuo Kamoto: “By the War’s end, Nisei will be co-owners of the American flag. Their blood will be the red in the Red, White & Blue.”56
During 1944, the last full year of the war, many church leaders and relief agencies of all denominations were busy helping relocate interned Japanese who chose to leave the camps. This required countless letters to employers, schools, priests, congregations, and bishops. John Yamazaki Jr., thankful for his wife’s skills as a typist, reported from Gila: “We have a large task…working with the Student Relocation Council, with our own [Episcopal] Executive Council’s College Work Division under the Rev. Dr. Alden Drew Kelley, and with the deans of universities.” It sometimes required a whole year to place a student, he acknowledged, and proudly reported 150 students from Gila Camp accepted in a year, “twenty-four from our congregation…More than a hundred members of St. Mary’s…have been relocated in twenty-one states.”57
At the national level, the 1944 Annual Report of the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society
began urging white Episcopal hearts and congregations to welcome Japanese Episcopalians. Many of the relocated were “earnest Christians” who must not be allowed to “lose touch with the services and sacraments to which they have been devoted,” the report warned. And race was given specific institutional acknowledgement. “The pattern of segregation must not be permitted to take root in the new environment, midwest or East Coast.” A statement about integrating non-whites into white churches had appeared in a national church document, a topic that would fully engage local congregations only twenty years later.58
Having made that pronouncement, however, the 1944 Annual Report
seemed to waver, unable to project truly bi-cultural churches; it announced that the Japanese moving into new communities were to be considered “part of our Diocesan missionary program and strategy.” Labeling Japanese-American Episcopalians as “missionary work” was an unwitting perpetuation of Anglo-cultural hegemony; it kept the Japanese at a distance by viewing them as the problem for some program beyond the local parish to solve. In their letters, Reifsnider and Wieland expressed misgivings about the warmth of welcome some congregations might extend to non-whites.59
Many St. Mary’s parishioners found jobs enabling them to leave camp. John Yamazaki Jr. became a chaplain to resettling Japanese, as did his father. After celebrating Christmas Eve 1944 communion at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Cincinnati, he wrote a typically buoyant greeting to the Gila News Courier:
“The good will and understanding we’ve received during life in the [Gila] Center and now in the Midwest…testifies to God’s hand in creation and history.”60
Those internees still in the camps remained fearful. Yo Uragami, long out of the camps as a language instructor to the US military, explained their sense of helplessness: “No one could foresee the future, or what would happen when they left. We had no idea if we would ever get our property back…we couldn’t be that far-seeing.”61
A summer 1944 editorial in the Gila News Courier
quoted Nisei soldiers for whom seeing their families behind barbed wire was “a jab in the stomach with an old bayonette.” In October 1944, Japanese-Americans cheered the mind-change of a major anti-Japanese Californian, George L. Kelly, who announced “I Was Wrong,” and joined the Commission for American Principles and Fair Play. Still, the same issue reported 1200 farmers near Santa Barbara who pledged not to sell or rent to Japanese: farming was “for returning GIs, for Americans only.”62
The major Nisei-learning of that year was increasing self-knowledge about their own prejudice against blacks, in part from their inherited culture of racial exclusivity but reinforced by the prejudice of the white majority culture. “Jim Crow was the worst thing to discover outside the camps.” Secretary of the Interior Ickes accused California officials of “terrorism against Japanese Americans,” and of creating “troubles” at the “back-door” of the San Francisco conference then convened to establish the United Nations.63
As Allied fortunes of war improved in 1945, correspondence between Reifsnider and Wieland again revealed their concerns. They discussed a possible centralized administration in a West Coast office for “all the interests of Japanese Americans.”64
Reifsnider wrote out the master plan he and Stevens had devised. Among the present Los Angeles clergy, the younger Yamazaki and layman Shunji Nishi were to be resettlement counselors, if the national Mission Council could pay their travel expenses, while John Yamazaki Sr. would scout resettlement conditions up and down the west coast. A “Cathedral connection should be established, in cooperation with the Dean,” for members of St. Mary’s. This arrangement would provide a temporary or alternate church home until the original congregation could fully reclaim the parish. (Various Episcopal clergy had held regular Sunday services there, attended by people in the neighborhood plus visitors motivated to demonstrate solidarity with the interned congregation.) The elder Yamazaki’s traveling ambassadorial role would effectively place his son in the role of St. Mary’s rector.65
The correspondence between Reifsnider and Wieland in May 1945 focused on the problem of Caucasian openness to the Japanese. Reifsnider envisioned a strategy of group integration, a small number of Japanese joining an established Anglo congregation together. That would allow the Japanese to feel supported in a new setting, in numbers modest enough to prevent the host congregation from feeling invaded. Wieland pointed out a standard Episcopal truism: that any major change in a congregation must begin with its clergy if it was to have any possibility of succeeding.66
On 25 July 1945, close to what has become the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Reifsnider wrote a valedictory letter to the senior Yamazaki, saluting his particular friend as well as beginning the symbolic closure of his wartime bishopric. Confident that “the Japanese work at St. Mary’s would soon reopen,” he inscribed his vision for its future. “Our policy and the ideal of Bishop Stevens, of you, and of me, is INTEGRATION.” There is no record of the elder Yamazaki’s expression as he read this but he may well have felt his lifelong confidence in the goodness of his church and nation fully vindicated. Although integration might make Issei Episcopalians fearful of attending white Episcopal churches, due to timidity or inability to worship in English, Reifsnider again explained his “modified form of integration, what I call group integration.” Issei and Nisei enter an existing congregation, and being “welcome on an interracial basis, form an interracial congregation.” In his farsighted plan, St. Mary’s itself would have both a white and a Japanese priest, the latter pastoring the Issei and preaching in Japanese. “As you know, the Issei problem will take care of itself in 15-20 years at the outside,” Reifsnider observed. Within a church thus constituted, there would be “a thoroughly integrated American congregation with only Nisei as [the Japanese component].” His triumphant anticipation “for St. Mary’s” was that young John Yamazaki serve as priest associate with the Rev. Pratt (the white clergyman who held services at St. Mary’s 1944-45) for a few years, or until he moved elsewhere, at which time John Yamazaki Jr. would have “complete charge of both the congregation and any Caucasians who might still remain.” Clearly a community of Christian racial and cultural cooperation was the bishop’s goal. He was realistic: “The great problem is to tide us over these next years until readjustment under new conditions can be brought to pass.” His letter to Bishop Stevens that day concerned Issei fears of leaving the relative security of camp. A few days later, he wrote Wieland, “I want white clergy to encourage group integration, so [the Japanese] feel support, and I want [churches] to start having Japanese associates [pastors].”67
The letters of 7 August and 13 August, 1945, between these two Episcopalians did not happen to mention the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Wieland asked Reifsnider to stay on for “a year after VJ day,” indirect acknowledgement that the war had ended, and endorsed his concept of group integration as “the ideal lead into total congregational integration.” Wieland also agreed that “Japanese as individuals were too shy” to desegregate a church by themselves. Because they were quiet and easily ignored, “[white] Americans [might appear] unwelcoming.” However he reiterated his conviction that no matter the difficulties, the church must resolutely avoid taking the line of least resistance — “re-establishing segregated Japanese chapels.”68
Perhaps the true enormity of atomic destruction did not seem germane to the winding down of their administrative concerns at that point. John Yamazaki Sr.’s second son, one of the first American physicians recruited to study radiation sickness in Japan, recalled that a climate of secrecy about releasing atomic energy information prevailed well into the 1950s.69
In any case, Reifsnider was already planning ahead for his return to Japan, eager to help rebuild the Nippon Sei Ko Kei. En route by March 1946, he sent letters to urge American financial support.70
The 1945 Annual Report of the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society
struggled over its definition of domestic mission, admitting that the Japanese-American church had been its “most baffling responsibility…during the war years.” Japanese Episcopalians now dispersed to many locations, rather than a few concentrated ones, created new complexities. The unidentified writer expressed little confidence that established congregations were actively drawing their Japanese colleagues into brotherly Christian embrace, and feared that many would be lost to the church. The report’s most positive note was gratitude to and for the Japanese clergy: they had been the “towers of strength not only to their own church people but to all Japanese-Americans everywhere.” Today the narrow compass of those words is glaring: Japanese clergy were thanked only for their Christian witness to their own race, not to all Episcopalians. The language further exemplified uncritical church identification with nationalist values: “They should be saluted and honored by us for their cooperation with the War Relocation Authority.” The imprisoned Japanese Americans had assisted their church, and American society in general, by not resisting the prevailing standards of patriotism and social order. Displaced Japanese Episcopalians had not demanded more from their church than it had been able to offer. Overall the 1945 report conveyed a tone of fatigue and “bafflement.”71
The new inter-cultural, multi-racial congregations envisioned in the letters of Reifsnider and Wieland, and the dreams of Japanese American Christians would remain ephemeral until the Civil Rights Movement emerged to actualize them in the 1960s.
Yet during the last months of the war, “a remarkable modification of opinion” emerged, with “acceptance replacing hostility.” “Acts of practical Christianity” toward Japanese neighbors, like that of St. Mary’s African-American neighbors, fellow Episcopalians in various churches, and the efforts of Los Angeles bishops, had begun to open quiet channels across the racial and cultural divide. Joseph Kitagawa believed that the “environmental shift in the popular mind” signaled “a sense of fair play” finally counterbalancing the negative force of historic anti-Japanese prejudice.72
St. Mary’s elders who experienced internment named several factors that contributed to their psychic and spiritual survival. Some mentioned a culturally encoded fatalism: one endures and perseveres, one must “go along to get along.” Nisei credited their bilingualism, the ability to reason and dream in both English and Japanese. Some cited belief in the ideals and realities of American citizenship as the basis of their hope, however damaged by internment; and many revealed an assimilated Anglo-cultural faith in individual agency — the belief that some
type of action, however limited, was possible even behind barbed wire.73
The sustaining religious normality of weekly liturgy in the camps, helping to preserve a sacramental connection with their pre-war Episcopal lives, was the significant, homely gift of grace.
How might Japanese Episcopalians’ World War II experience have differed, if Christian churches had not from the beginning segregated them into exclusive ethnic congregations, and social relationships across racial and cultural lines had been given as much emphasis as Anglican worship?74
John Yamazaki Jr. incarnated one answer by becoming a cultural interpreter and “missionary” in diocesan and inter-denominational activities, the platform for his American political and organizational skills after 1945.75
Destined to live out his career at St. Mary’s, he disarmed critics with humor and poked fun at his own stereotype. His cultural gifts were woven into St. Mary’s own fabric — for example, in the emblematic marble baptistery presented by returning soldiers. Its carved legend, “All Present & Accounted For”, tapped both liturgical and military symbolism, idealizing a multi-racial citizenship in heaven. The window designs blending American national and Christian symbols with reminders of the Japanese internment’s desert wilderness, transformed traumatic experience into a stained-glass biography of the congregation.76
“Courageous and sympathetic acts of individual assistance coexisted with…generalized acceptance of the necessity for evacuation, a policy unconsciously rationalized…[by] the old stereotypes of the wily, devious oriental…yet [modified by] feelings of regret and humanitarian concern.”77
Japanese Episcopal priests themselves were the daily pastoral embodiment of the Episcopal Church in the camps, visible symbols of its presence in their enforced displacement. Reifsnider became the surrogate for concerned white Episcopalians who wanted to express both concern for the interned, and cooperation with the government. The grace-filled leadership of Los Angeles bishops Stevens and Gooden hallowed this troubling chapter in church and national history. Wakako Yamauchi’s unblinking summary speaks for the interned themselves: “Camp was the place they sent us all…whether one was rich or poor, alien or citizen, loyal or disloyal, we had the face of the enemy and they herded us all into these camps.” John Saville, young John Yamazaki’s seminary classmate, believes that St. Mary’s endured because clergy and congregation chose to interpret “uncomplaining cooperation” as their contribution, their “war sacrifice.”78
Thanks to the bishops and others who acted on neighborly motives in a situation barely known to many fellow churchmen across the nation, the national and local Episcopal record at St. Mary’s evinces attitudes among some which, despite cultural limitations, were not ignoble.
Joanna Bowen Gillespie is currently researching a book on Martha Laurens Ramsay (1759-1811).
1 J.H.M. Yamazaki, “Trials & Testings,” As We Remember…from the First Hundred Years of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Ruth Nicastro, ed. (Los Angeles, 1995), 31-36.
2 Dr. James Yamazaki, Children of the Atomic Bomb: An American Physician’s Memoir of Nagasaki, Hiroshima and the Marshall Islands, (Durham, North Carolina, 1995), 16. For 75 Years: The Spirit of St. Mary’s (n.d. circa 1982), Vestry of St. Mary’s, 25.
[Anglican and Episcopal History, 2000, vol. LXIX. No. 2]
©2000 by the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. All rights reserved.
3 Kevin Starr, Material Dreams: Southern California to 1920. (New York, 1990) 146-47; Tom Uragami, “Exodus From the West Coast,” The Triad 38 no. 1, (October-December, 1943): 2-17. “A Chronology of World War II Incarceration,” Japanese-American National Museum Quarterly 9, no. 3 (October-December 1994): 11-16, starts with the Asiatic Exclusion League of 1905 formed in San Francisco, then the Alien Land Law enacted in the 1920s prohibiting land-owning and first-generation immigrants (Issei) from becoming naturalized citizens.
4 For 75 Years, 23-25.
5Sandra C. Taylor, “Fellow Feelers with the Afflicted, The Christian Churches and the Relocation of the Japanese During World War II,” 123-29, in Japanese Americans from Relocation to Redress. Roger Daniels, et al, eds. (Salt Lake City, 1985).
6 T. J. Jackson Lears, “The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities.” AHR 70 (June 1985): 567-93. I thank Arthur Hansen, Professor of History and Asian American Studies and founder of the Japanese American Project of the Oral History Program at California State University, Fullerton, for directing my attention to the concept of cultural hegemony and an assortment of relevant primary sources.
7 Interview by JBG with J.H.M. Yamazaki, Van Nuys, California, August 1996. He cited Bishop Stevens’s regretful words at the meeting recorded in the Bishop’s Calendar; Journal 47th Annual Convention (Los Angeles, 1942), 109; also Yamazaki, As We Remember, 31.
8 John Rawlinson, “California’s Ethnic Ministries: Not Cost Effective,” The Historiographer 29, no. 1 (Spring 1997): 4-5. Hayashi, “For the Sake of our Japanese Brethren” — Assimilation, Nationalism, and Protestantism among the Japanese of Los Angeles 1895-1942. (Stanford, California, 1995).
9 Reynold E. Blight, “Where East Meets West,” The Living Church, 26 November 1941, 18-19.
10 Carey McWilliams, Prejudice: Japanese-Americans, Symbol of Racial Intolerance. (Boston, 1944). Taylor, “Fellow Feelers,” 123, reported that McWilliams’s hearings were “commandeered” by the anti-Japanese lobby. J.B. Gillespie, “What We Taught: Christian Education in the American Episcopal Church 1920-1980” in Anglican and Episcopal History, 56, no 1 (March 1987): 45-86, for late attention to race in Episcopal Sunday school materials.
11 The Clerical Directory 1956 (New York, 1956), 337, and Clerical Directory 1959 (New York, 1959), 256. Archives of Episcopal Church USA, Austin, Texas. Hereafter AEC. Appointment, Original Minutes of the National Council (1942), 59.
12 Ibid., National Council Minutes.
13 The Living Church, 104, no. 8 (25 February 1942): 14.
14 The Living Church, 104, no. 11 (18 March 1942): 11-12. I thank the Rev. Sallie Hague for calling my first attention to that article.
15 Reifsnider to Tucker, 27 March 1942. RG 71. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, Japan Records, 1859-1953, AEC, Box 172, File 1. I have yet to locate financial records of this fund. Reifsnider to Block, 4 April 1942.
16 Tracing the evolution of Roosevelt’s decision, see Roger Daniels, The Decision to Relocate the Japanese Americans (Malabar, Florida,  1990), 113-114; Pegler quote, 17; Hosokawa, Nisei, 337-58.
17 The Living Church, 104, no. 12 (25 March 1952): 15, quoting the 20 January 1942 resolution of the Japanese Church Federation of Los Angeles.
18 Gillespie, “Episcopal: Family as the Nursery of Church and Society,” in Faith Traditions and the Family, Phyllis D. Airhart and Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, eds., (Lousville, Kentucky, 1996), 143-54.
19 For Western dominance, see Joseph Mitsuo Kitagawa, The Christian Tradition: Beyond its European Captivity (Philadelphia, 1992), 20.
20 Ibid., 271.
21 Hosokawa, Nisei, xv. Frank Sugeno, letter to the author, 15 January 1997.
22 Monica Sone, Nisei Daughter. (Seattle,  1979), 22; Hosokawa, Nisei, 164.
23 Joseph Kitagawa, Christian Tradition, 271; Hosokawa, Nisei, 187, 172.
24 Daisuke Kitagawa, Memoirs (manuscript, 16) UP18, AEC: Taylor, “Fellow Feelers,” 123.
25 D. Kitagawa, Memoirs, 93; Taylor, “Fellow Feelers,” 125, 123; Robert Shaffer, “Cracks in the Consensus: Defending the Rights of Japanese Americans During World War II,” forthcoming Radical Historical Review.
26 D. Kitagawa, The Living Church, vol. 104, no. 16: 14-15.
27 Galen M. Fisher, “The Japanese Evacuation: Looking Backward and Forward.” The Living Church vol. 104, no. 15: 10-11; McWilliams named the Committee chairs: Robert G. Sproul, University of California in Berkeley, Ray Lyman Wilbur of Stanford University, and Robert Millican of California Institute of Technology. Prejudice, 253.
28 J.H.M. Yamazaki would “never vote Democrat again as long as he lived” because Roosevelt signed the order for internment — his most negative statement. Interview, Indianapolis, 1994; Yamazaki, As We Remember, 33; Gary Y. Okihiro, Whispered Silences: Japanese Americans in World War II (Seattle, 1996), 184.
29 Okihiro, Whispered Silences, 184; Yo Uragami, personal communication to JBG, 13 November 1996. In 1998 as Mrs. Uragami read this paper, she was forced to put it down “from time to time,” because again the “hurt returned so powerfully.”
30 Mitsuye Yamada, Camp Notes and Other Poems (Berkeley, 1977), unpaginated; Harry H.L. Kitano, Japanese Americans, the Evolution of a Subculture (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1969) quoted in Mai Nakano, Japanese American Women: Three Generations 1890-1990 (San Francisco, 1997), 133.
31 J.H.M. Yamazaki was one of twenty-five individuals thanked in the final report (24 October 1943) of Hugo Wolter, Director of the Gila Arizona Camps for eighteen months. Ms42, Box 13, File 1, WRA Reports — University of Arizona Special Collections-Folklore Collection, Tucson, Arizona — hereafter UAzSpCol; JBG interview with J.H.M. Yamazaki, Van Nuys, California, August 1996.
32 Journal of the 47th Annual Convention (Los Angeles, 1942), 121, 92.
33 J.H.M. Yamazaki interview with the author, Van Nuys, California, August 1996.
34 Reifsnider to Wieland, 16 November 1942, AEC, RG 71, Box 172 File 2.
35 Personal communication from J.H.M. Yamazaki, May 1996.
36 Gila Courier Anniversary Supplement, 12 September 1942, 3, UAzSpCol: Nakano, Three Generations, 146; McWilliams, Prejudice, 199; Mitsuye Yamada, excerpt from “BLOCK 4 BARRACK 4 Apt C” from Yamada, Camp Notes, 1973 (unpaginated).
37 Journal of 49th Annual Convocation, Missionary District of Arizona, Phoenix, 1942: 24-27.
38 Gila Courier 3, no. 33 (6 November 1943): 5; 3, no. 42 (27 November 1943): 5;2, no. 49 (24 April 1943): 1 (UAzSpCol); Arthur A. Hansen, “Cultural Politics in the Gila River Relocation Center 1942-43” in Arizona and the West 27, no. 4 (Winter 1985): 327-62.
39 Forth, 17 January 1943, 22-24. Kano (Nebraska) wrote Reifsnider that he was “God’s ambassador to the Buddhists and Shinto in the camps” (28 August 1942, AEC, RG 71, Box 71 File 2. Frank Sugeno, retired Professor of American Church History from Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, Texas, credits his introduction to Christianity to Joseph Kitagawa’s internment ministry.
40 The Living Church, 17 January 1943, 6.
41 The Living Church, 17 January 1943, 24.
42 Journal, 49th Annual Convention (Los Angeles, 1943) 80-83. 1943 Annual Report of the Directors of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church (New York, 1943), 4.
43 For language as “cover-up by euphemism,” see James Hirabayashi, “’Concentration Camp’ or ‘Relocation Center’: What’s in a Name?” Japanese American Museum Quarterly 9, no. 3 (October-December 1994): 5-10.
44 Hansen, “Cultural Politics in the Gila River Relocation Center”; Daisuke Kitagawa, Race Relations and Christian Mission (Philadelphia, 1954). McWilliams, Prejudice (184-188) cites disturbances at Tule Lake, Poston, and Topaz camps. Hosokawa, Nisei (378), cited those in the Poston and Rohwer camps; “troublemakers” were finally segregated at one camp, Tule Lake.
45 G. Gordon Brown, “Religious Organizations,” Final Report on Gila, 20 May 1940, Ms42, Box 8 File 23, 64. War Relocation Authority documents, UAZSpCol. Robert F. Spencer, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Role of Religion in the Gila Relocation Center,” (unpublished manuscript, 1943 Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley), 11-15.
46Letter, Yamazaki to Reifsnider, 8 March 1943. AEC, RG 71, Box 172, File 3. The two problematic questions on the “Application for Leave Clearance” questionnaire were for men: #27, Do you swear to abstain from any allegiance to the Japanese or other foreign government and swear allegiance to the US? And #28 Will you bear arms for the US? (Hosokawa, Nisei, 360).
47 Ibid, 2; Hansen, “Cultural Politics in Gila,” 344. This details the generational and ideological battle, also class and urban/rural factors, in the camp where young Yamazaki lived (though he did not mention it), a few months before the senior Yamazaki’s bruising, 331-33.
48 Emphasis in original. John Yamazaki to Reifsnider, undated letter (circa 20-21 March 1943) AEC, Box 172 File 3.
49 Ibid. For the complex history of Japanese American Citizens League, see an unpublished paper by Charles Kikuchi, July 1943, “Development of the Gila JACL,” Bancroft Library K8.22. James Yamazaki, next younger brother of J.H.M., characterized their Issei Episcopal father as a mediator/harmonizer: “My father would have been the last to lead a protest march”; he “deeply regretted the relocation,” but feared “the likelihood of violence against Japanese Americans had they remained on the West Coast.” James Yamazaki, Children of the Atomic Bomb, 14.
50 Yamazaki to Reifsnider, 8 March 1943, AEC, Box 172, File 3. Inscription translated to the author by J.H.M. Yamazaki, 4 May 1994, translation varying slightly from Yamazaki, As We Remember, 34.
51 Arthur A. Hansen, “The 1944 Nisei Draft at Heart Mountain, Wyoming and Its Relationship to the Historical Representation of the World War II Japanese American Evacuation,” Organization of American Historians Magazine of History (Summer 1996): 48-60. In 1996 these resisters were finally celebrated: “’No-No’ Boys Oral Histories of World War II Bein Sought by Heart Mountain Internee,” Rafu Shimpo, Los Angeles Japanese Daily News (3 December 1996), 1.
52 Reifsnider to Wieland, quoting Yamazaki’s letter: AEC, RG 71, 20 May 1943, Box 172 File 3.
53 Reifsnider to Wieland, 2 September 1943; Wieland to Reifsnider, 8 September 1943. AEC, RG 71, Box 172, File 4.
54 Daisuke Kitagawa (1910-1970), author of Race Relations and Christian Mission (Philadelphia, 1954), The Pastor and the Race Issue, (New York, 1957), and Issei/Nissei (New York, 1969), arrived in the United States in 1937, age twenty-seven and attended General Seminary. Joseph Kitagawa (1915-1992) came the next year.
55 Gila Courier 3, no. 53 (23 December 1943): 2; 3, no. 83 (2 March 1944): 2. (UAzSpCol)
56 Gila Courier 3, no. 31 (2 November 1943): 2; 2, no. 38 (2 March 1943): 2. (Ibid.)
57 J.H.M. Yamazaki’s report, originally a letter to Bishop Stevens published in Forth, April 1944, was cited in For 75 Years, 30-31.
58 Annual Report of the Directors of the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society (New York, 1944), 5-6; Gillespie, “What We Taught,” 45-86, cited a cover on Findings picturing a white and an African-American child together, possibly for the first time, in the mid-1960s.
59 Annual Report, 1944, 4; Yamazaki, As We Remember, 35.
60 Gila News Courier 4, no. 1 (3 January 1945): 2.
61 Phone interview JBG with Yo Uragami, May 1997.
62 Gila News Courier 3, no. 179 (14 October 1944): 1, 2.
63 Gila News Courier 3, no. 112 (9 May 1944): 2; 4, no. 40 (19 May 1945): 1.
64 Wieland to Reifsnider, 15 February 1945. AEC, RG 71, Box 173, File 1.
65 Reifsnider to Stevens, 6 March 1945. AEC, RG 71, Box 173 File 2.
66 Ibid., Wieland to Reifsnider, 5 May 1945, 15 May 1945.
67 Ibid, Reifsnider to Yamazaki, Sr., 25 July 1945; Reifsnider to Stevens, 25 July 1945; Reifsnider to Wieland, 30 July 1945. AEC, RG 71, Box 173, File 3.
68 Ibid., Wieland to Riefsnider, 13 August 1945.
69 Dr. James Yamazaki, Children of the Atomic Bomb, 1995.
70 Reifsnider to Wieland, 27 March 1946; AEC RG 71 Box 173, File 3.
71 1945 Annual Report of the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society (New York, 1945), 4.
72 Taylor, “Fellow Feelers,” 125; Joseph Kitagawa, The Christian Tradition, 107.
73 Further explanations of these factors in Nakano, Japanese American Women; and J. Kitagawa’s personal statement in Christian Tradition, 265.
74 Hosokawa, Nisei, 131.
75 See “Unlikely Partners, Strong Alliance: The Story of LAD/EAST” (acronym for Episcopal Asiamerica Strategy Task Force/Los Angeles Diocese) by Florence L. Munoz and John H.M. Yamazaki, in As We Remember 47-51.
76 Fabricated by the Judson Stained Glass Studios, the Church and War window contains the shields of the seven dioceses where internment camps were located, whose bishops embodied the national church to uprooted Japanese Episcopalians. In the center, a kneeling Jesus prays near a barren fig tree. Above his head are a chalice and the symbols of cloud-by-day and fire-by-night that led these twentieth-century migrants through the wilderness. J.H.M. Yamakazi presented commemorative framed photographs of that window to each of those dioceses, in 1982.
A window depicting St. Mary’s Historic Roots includes its “patron saint” Mary Louise Patterson, a formal Japanese court fan symbolizing the family of Yamakazi Sr., an oak leaf symbolizing his mother’s family business, a crucifix, and symbols of the Anglican Communion: Nippon Sei Ko Kai, Canterbury, Canada, and PECUSA. At the bottom of the window a cartoon Snoopy emblemized St. Mary’s “mixed cultural bloodlines,” Yamazaki’s phrase recalling St. Mary’s Anglo benefactor whose child attended St. Mary’s during his terminal weeks. The Gethsamane window displays the spiritual landscape of the Gila Bend camp: the desert and the giant saguaro cactus of Arizona. An Ascension window depicts the Martin Luther King ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, an astronaut, the scales-of-justice, and a cross whose staff is grasped by the hands of all races. A Baptism window celebrates humble gardening tools, a horn of plenty, flowers, an American flag, and Buddhist-Japanese neighbors who supported St. Mary’s post-war rejuvenation.
77 Sandra C. Taylor, “Fellow Feelers,” 123. Buddhist Japanese internees were usually excluded from church-provided assistance.
78 Wakako Yamauchi, Songs My Mother Taught Me: Short Stories, Play, Memoir (New York, 1994), 243; John Saville letter to JBG, January 1997.