Forgotten History-Japanese Canadian internment.

Like their southern neighbors, the USA, the Canadians also put their fellow japannotCanadians,albeit from Japanese descend, in intern camps. However it appears that history has forgotten this chapter. Unlike their Southern neighbors the Canadians kept restrictions  for their Japanese-Canadian citizens in place  for several years after the war.

I am not saying that I don’t understand the reasons why this was done, because I do. But that doesn’t mean that I condone it especially many of the Japanese were born in Canada and  some of the interned Japanese Canadians were combat veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, including several men who had been decorated for bravery on the Western Front. Despite the first iterations of veterans affairs associations established during World War II, fear and racism drove policy and trumped veterans’ rights, meaning that virtually no Japanese-Canadian veterans were exempt from being removed from the BC coast

Not until 1949, four years after Japan had surrendered, were the majority of Nikkei allowed to return to British Columbia. By then most had chosen to begin life anew elsewhere in Canada. Their property had long before been confiscated and sold at a fraction of its worth.

When the Pacific War began, discrimination against Japanese Canadians increased. Following the  Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and Malaya and the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Japanese Canadians were categorized as enemy aliens under the War Measures Act, which began to remove their personal rights. Starting on December 8, 1941, 1,200 Japanese-Canadian-owned fishing vessels were impounded as a “defence” measure.

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Beginning in early 1942, the Canadian government detained and dispossessed the vast majority of people of Japanese descent living in British Columbia. They were interned for the rest of the Second World War, during which time their homes and businesses were sold by the government in order to pay for their detention.

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The order in 1942, to leave the “restricted area” and move 100 miles (160km) inland from the west coast was made under the authority of the War Measures Act and affected over 21,000 Japanese Canadians. Most were first held in the livestock barns in Hastings Park (Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition grounds) and then moved to hastily built camps in the BC interior. At first, many men were separated from their families and sent to road camps in Ontario and on the BC/Alberta border. Small towns in the BC interior such as Greenwood, Sandon, New Denver and Slocan became internment quarters mainly for women, children and the aged. To stay together, some families agreed to work on sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba where there were labour shortages. Those who resisted and challenged the orders of the Canadian government were rounded up by the RCMP and incarcerated in a barbed-wire prisoner-of-war camp in Angler, Ontario.

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On 24 February 1942, the federal Cabinet of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King issued Order-in-Council P.C. 1486w200.10691 to remove and detain “any and all persons” from any “protective area” in the country. While those powers were broad enough to detain any person, they were specifically used to target Japanese Canadians along the West Coast. The following week, the British Columbia Security Commission, the organization that carried out Japanese internment, was established. On 16 March, the first Japanese Canadians were transported from areas 160 km inland from the Pacific coast — deemed a “protected area” — and brought to Hastings Park. More than 8,000 detainees moved through Hastings Parks, where women and children were housed in the Livestock Building. All property that could not be carried was taken into government custody.

Special trains then carried the Japanese detainees to Slocan, New Denver, Kaslo, Greenwood and Sandon — ghost towns in the BC interior. Others were offered the option of working on sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba ,where they would be able to keep their families intact. Though the camps were not surrounded with barbed wire fences, as they were in the United States, conditions were overcrowded and poor, with no electricity or running water.

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Those who resisted their internment were sent to prisoner of war camps in Petawawa, Ontario, or to Camp 101 on the northern shore of Lake Superior.

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In a further betrayal, an order-in-council signed 19 January 1943 liquidated all Japanese property that had been under the government’s “protective custody.” Homes, farms, businesses and personal property were sold, and the proceeds used to pay down the social assistance received by detained Japanese Canadians.

Anti-Japanese racism was not confined to British Columbia, but was spread across Canada. Though acutely in need of labour, Albertans did not want Japanese Canadians in their midst. Alberta sugar beet farmers crowded Japanese labourers into tiny shacks, un-insulated granaries and chicken coops, and paid them a pittance for their hard labour.

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Japanese-Canadian women and children faced a specific set of challenges that greatly affected their way of life and broke down the social and cultural norms that had developed. Whole families were taken from their homes and separated from each other. Husbands and wives were almost always separated when sent to camps and, less commonly, some mothers were separated from their children as well. Japanese-Canadian families typically had a patriarchal structure, meaning the husband was the centre of the family. Since husbands were often separated from their families, wives were left to reconfigure the structure of the family and the long established divisions of labour that were so common in the Japanese-Canadian household

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In 1946, nearly 4,000 former internees sailed to a bombed-out Japan. About 2,000 were aging first-generation immigrants — 1,300 were children under 16 years of age. The last controls on Japanese Canadians were not lifted until 1949, when they were granted the right to vote. Finally, Canadian society began to open to the Japanese.

On April 1, 1949, four years after the war was over, all the restrictions were lifted and Japanese Canadians were given full citizenship rights, including  the right to return to the west coast. But there was no home to return to. The Japanese Canadian community in British Columbia was virtually destroyed.

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Japanese attacks on North America

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A little known fact of WWII is that Japan attacked North America several time. Aside from the Pearl Harbor attack, the other attacks were relatively unsuccessful

Below a summary of some of those attacks.

On June 3–4, 1942, Japanese planes from two light carriers Ryūjō and Jun’yō struck the U.S. military base at Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, Unalaska, Alaska.

Originally, the Japanese planned to attack Dutch Harbor simultaneously with its attack on Midway but it occurred a day earlier due to one-day delay. The attack only did moderate damage on Dutch Harbor, but 78 Americans were killed in the attack.

On June 6, two days after the bombing of Dutch Harbor, 500 Japanese marines landed on Kiska, one of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Upon landing, they killed two and captured eight U.S. Navy officers, then took the remaining inhabitants of the island, and seized control of American soil for the first time.

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The next day, a total of 1,140 Japanese infantrymen landed on Attu via Holtz Bay, eventually reaching Massacre Bay and Chichagof Harbor. Attu’s population at the time consisted of 45 Native American Aleuts, and two Americans – Charles Foster Jones, a 60-year-old ham radio operator and weather observer, and his 62-year-old wife Etta, a teacher and nurse. The Japanese killed Jones after interrogating him, while his wife and the Aleut population were sent to Japan. The invasion was only the second time that American soil had been occupied by a foreign enemy, the first being the British during the War of 1812.

A year after Japan’s invasion and occupation of the islands of Attu and Kiska, 34,000 U.S. troops landed on these islands and fought there throughout the summer, defeating the Japanese and regaining control of the islands.

Bombardment of Ellwood

The United States mainland was first shelled by the Axis on February 23, 1942 when the Japanese submarine I-17 attacked the Ellwood Oil Field west of Goleta, near Santa Barbara, California. Although only a pumphouse and catwalk at one oil well were damaged, I-17 captain Nishino Kozo radioed Tokyo that he had left Santa Barbara in flames. No casualties were reported and the total cost of the damage was officially estimated at approximately $500–1,000. News of the shelling triggered an invasion scare along the West Coast.

Bombardment of Estevan Point Lighthouse

More than five Japanese submarines operated in Western Canada during 1941 and 1942. On June 20, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-26,

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under the command of Yokota Minoru,fired 25–30 rounds of 5.5-inch shells at the Estevan Point lighthouse on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, but failed to hit its target.Though no casualties were reported, the subsequent decision to turn off the lights of outer stations was disastrous for shipping activity.

Bombardment of Fort Stevens

In what became the only attack on a mainland American military installation during World War II, the Japanese submarine I-25, under the command of Tagami Meiji, surfaced near the mouth of the Columbia River, Oregon on the night of June 21 and June 22, 1942, and fired shells toward Fort Stevens. The only damage officially recorded was to a baseball field’s backstop.

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Probably the most significant damage was a shell that damaged some large phone cables. The Fort Stevens gunners were refused permission to return fire for fear of revealing the guns’ location and/or range limitations to the sub. American aircraft on training flights spotted the submarine, which was subsequently attacked by a US bomber, but escaped.

Lookout Air Raids

The Lookout Air Raids occurred on September 9, 1942. The only aerial bombing of mainland United States by a foreign power occurred when an attempt to start a forest fire was made by a Japanese Yokosuka E14Y1 “Glen” seaplane

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dropping two 80 kg (180 lb) incendiary bombs over Mount Emily, near Brookings, Oregon. The seaplane, piloted by Nobuo Fujita, had been launched from the Japanese submarine aircraft carrier I-25. No significant damage was officially reported following the attack, nor after a repeat attempt on September 29.

Fire balloon attacks

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Between November 1944 and April 1945, the Japanese Navy launched over 9,000 fire balloons toward North America. Carried by the recently discovered Pacific jet stream, they were to sail over the Pacific Ocean and land in North America, where the Japanese hoped they would start forest fires and cause other damage. About three hundred were reported as reaching North America, but little damage was caused. Six people (five children and a woman) became the only deaths due to enemy action to occur on mainland United States during World War II when one of the children tampered with a bomb from a balloon near Bly, Oregon and it exploded. The site is marked by a stone monument at the Mitchell Recreation Area in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. Recently] released reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian military indicate that fire balloons reached as far inland as Manitoba. A fire balloon is also considered to be a possible cause of the third fire in the Tillamook Burn. One member of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion died while responding to a fire in the Northwest on August 6, 1945; other casualties of the 555th were two fractures and 20 other injuries.

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THE HALIFAX VE-DAY RIOTS

 

9f2fb106-d475-4208-b2bb-4de6549dedf9_thumbnail_600_600On 7 and 8 May 1945, riots broke out after poorly coordinated Victory in Europe celebrations fell apart in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Several thousand servicemen (predominantly naval), merchant seamen and civilians drank, vandalized and looted.

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Word of Germany’s surrender in World War II was met by celebrations across Canada, but in Halifax, Nova Scotia the VE-Day celebrations rapidly turned into riots. For two days, military personnel and civilians roamed the streets, drinking, smashing windows, looting businesses and setting fires.

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A major North American port, Halifax had doubled its size during World War II, from about 70,000 people to 130,000.

The resulting overcrowding in Halifax, scarce food, and inadequate facilities had led to a buildup of tensions between military personnel and permanent residents of Halifax.

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The planning for VE-Day in Halifax was poor. In meetings before VE-Day there had been an agreement that the navy, army and air force would look after their own personnel and the Halifax city police force would take care of civilians. In reality, the military and civilian police could not handle mobs of mixed military personnel and civilians, and nobody could control 25,000 servicemen on leave who wanted to celebrate, but had nothing to do, and nothing to drink.

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When the news of the German surrender was announced on radio on Monday morning May 7, 1945, people in Halifax, as in many other Canadian cities, ran into the streets to celebrate.

Restaurants and liquor stores in Halifax were closed to let workers celebrate. There were no taverns in Halifax.

The navy wet canteens opened around noon and closed at 9 pm that evening. When the canteens closed, thousands of sailors streamed into the streets of Halifax, joining the throngs of civilians and other servicemen.

A group of sailors wrecked a tram car. When the police arrived, the sailors smashed the police van.

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By midnight the Halifax liquor stores were being hit by rioters.

On the second day, VE-Day, it started all over again at about noon.

Civilians and other servicemen joined the mob as vandalism and looting broke out and spread.

A mob broke through the police cordon at the brewery – some even carted beer out in trucks. When the city and army police arrived, the mob had grown to thousands of civilians and military personnel, and the looting of the brewery went on unchecked.

Admiral Leonard Murray marched a parade of servicemen downtown to set an example for the looters. The marchers were jeered and shoved, and many joined the rioters.

Systematic destruction and looting continued as restaurants were looted and burned and all the businesses in the Halifax downtown district were looted and smashed.

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Admiral Murray and Halifax Mayor Butler drove through the downtown wreckage of Halifax using a loudspeaker to announce an 8 pm curfew.

By midnight it had begun to rain, and the riots faded.

Three people died – two of alcohol poisoning, and one a possible murder.

More than 500 businesses were damaged.Over 200 shops were looted.

Thousands of cases of beer, wine and liquor were looted.

Admiral Leonard Murray was forced to retire.

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Forgotten History:Sergeant Leo Major-One Eyed Hero

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This man is true inspiration to me in a very personal way.Like me he had only the use of one eye, but unlike me he risked his life many times.

Leo Major was a French Canadian man born in 1921. He probably didn’t think he was going to be more of a hero than the average soldier when he joined up with the Canadian Army at the start of World War II—supposedly he simply joined up because he wanted to show his father, with whom he had a shaky relationship, that he could do something to be proud of.

Léo Major DCM & Bar (1921 – 12 October 2008) was a French Canadian soldier in the Régiment de la Chaudière in World War II.

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He was the only Canadian and one of only three soldiers in the British Commonwealth to ever receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal twice in separate wars.

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On the night of 13 April 1945, Major single-handedly liberated the city of Zwolle in the Netherlands from German army occupation.This action earned him his first Distinguished Conduct Medal. He received his second DCM during the Korean War for leading the capture of a key hill.

Major died in Longueuil on 12 October 2008 and was buried at the Last Post Fund National Field of Honour in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. He was survived by: Pauline De Croiselle, his wife of 57 years; four children; and five grandchildren.

During a reconnaissance mission on D-Day, Major captured a German armoured vehicle (a Hanomag) by himself. The vehicle contained German communication equipment and secret German Army codes.

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Days later, during his first encounter with an SS patrol, he killed four soldiers; however, one of them managed to ignite a phosphorus grenade. After the resulting explosion, Major lost one eye but he continued to fight.

He continued his service as a scout and a sniper by insisting that he needed only one eye to sight his weapon. According to him, he “looked like a pirate”

Major single-handedly captured 93 German soldiers during the Battle of the Scheldt in Zeeland in the southern Netherlands.During a reconnaissance, whilst alone, he spotted two German soldiers walking along a dike. As it was raining and cold, Major said to himself, “I am frozen and wet because of you so you will pay.” He captured the first German and attempted to use him as bait so he could capture the other. The second attempted to use his gun, but Major quickly killed him. He went on to capture their commanding officer and forced him to surrender. The German garrison surrendered themselves after three more were shot dead by Major. In a nearby village, SS troops who witnessed German soldiers being escorted by a Canadian soldier shot at their own soldiers, injuring a few and killing seven. Major disregarded the enemy fire and kept escorting his prisoners to the Canadian front line. Major then ordered a passing Canadian tank to fire on the SS troops.

He marched back to camp with nearly a hundred prisoners. Thus, he was chosen to receive a DCM. He declined the invitation to be decorated, however, because according to him General Montgomery (who was giving the award) was “incompetent” and in no position to be giving out medals.

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In February 1945, Major was helping a Chaplain load corpses from a destroyed Tiger tank into a Bren Carrier.

 

 

After they finished loading the bodies, the padre and the driver seated themselves in the front whilst Major jumped on the back of the vehicle. The carrier soon struck a land mine. Major claims to have remembered a loud blast followed by his body being thrown into the air and smashing down hard as he landed on his back. He lost consciousness and awoke to two concerned medical officers trying to assess his condition. He simply asked if the Chaplain was okay. They did not answer, but loaded him onto a truck so he could be transported to a field hospital 30 miles (48 km) away, stopping every 15 minutes to inject morphine to relieve the pain in his back.

A doctor at the field hospital informed him that he had broken his back in three places, four ribs, and both ankles.Again they told Major that the war was over for him. A week went by and Major had the opportunity to flee. He managed to get a ride from a passing jeep that drove him to Nijmegen, a town where he had previously met a family. He stayed with that family for close to a month. He went back to his unit in March 1945. Technically, Pte Major would have been AWOA (Absent Without Authority). There is a lack of sources regarding how Major was able to avoid punishment.

 

In April 1945, Major’s regiment was approaching the city of Zwolle.  His commanding officers asked for two volunteers to do a reconnaissance run and report on the  number of German troops patrolling the city. If possible, the volunteers were also asked to get in contact with the Dutch resistance as the Chaudiere regiment was to start firing on the city the next day. At the time, Zwolle had a population of around 50,000 people and it was likely that innocent civilians would number among the casualties.

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Along with his friend Willy Arseneault, Major started to creep toward the city. Willy was killed by German soldiers around midnight after the pair ran across a roadblock.

 

 

Reportedly, Willy was able to kill his attacker before dying himself. Understandably angry, Major picked up his friend’s machine gun and ran at the enemy, killing two of the remaining German soldiers; the rest fled in a vehicle.
Major continued on and soon ambushed a staff vehicle and captured the German driver who he had lead him to an officer drinking in a nearby tavern. He informed the officer that Canadian forces would begin firing heavy artillery on the city, resulting in the deaths of many German soldiers and Zwolle civilians alike. He didn’t mention that he was alone.

Afterwards, Major gave the man his gun back and, with that seed of knowledge soon to be spread throughout the German troops, he immediately began running up and down the streets shooting a machine gun and tossing grenades. The grenades made a lot of noise, but he made sure to place them where they wouldn’t cause much damage to the town or its citizens.

In the early hours of the morning, he stumbled upon a group of eight soldiers. Though they pulled a gun on him, he killed four and caused the rest to flee. Major himself escaped the confrontation without injury and only one regret: he later stated he felt he should have killed all of them. 

As he continued his campaign of terror throughout the night, the German soldiers began to panic, thinking a large body of Canadian forces were attacking them.  By 4 a.m., the Germans had vanished. An entire garrison—estimated to have been made up of several hundred soldiers—had been made so afraid of nothing more than a single, one-eyed man that they fled the town. The city of Zwolle had been liberated without the need for the death of civilians or many of the soldiers on both sides of the lines that would have taken part in the messy battle.

Rather than fall asleep after running around the city in the wee hours of morning avoiding German gunfire and causing all kinds of mayhem, Major enlisted the help of several Dutch civilians to retrieve the body of his friend Willy. Only after his friend’s body had been recovered did Major report to his commanding officer that there was “no enemy” in the city.Major found out later that morning that the Germans had fled to the west of the River IJssel

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and, perhaps more importantly, that the planned shelling of the city would be called off and his Régiment de la Chaudière could enter the city unopposed. Major then took his dead friend back to the Van Gerner farm until regimental reinforcements could carry him away. He was back at camp by 9:00 am. For his actions, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.The Canadian army marched in to the sound of cheers rather than gun shots. For his actions at Zwolle, Major received a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Léo Major fought in the Korean War, where he was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal for capturing and holding a key hill (Hill 355).

This position was being controlled by the Third US Infantry Division (around 10,000 men) when the 64th Chinese Army (around 40,000 men) lowered a decisive artillery barrage. Over the course of two days, the Americans were pushed back by elements of the Chinese 190th and 191st Divisions.

They tried to recapture the hill, but without any success, and the Chinese had moved to the nearby Hill 227, practically surrounding the US forces. In order to relieve pressure, LCol J.A. Dextraze, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal 22nd Regiment, brought up an elite scout and sniper team led by Léo Major. Wielding Stenguns, Major and his 18 men silently crept up the hill. At a signal, Major’s men opened fire, panicking the Chinese who were trying to understand why the firing was coming from the center of their troops instead of from the outside. By 12:45 am they had retaken the hill.

However, an hour later two Chinese divisions (the 190th and the 191st, totaling around 14,000 men) counter-attacked. Major was ordered to retreat, but refused and found scant cover for his men. There he held the enemy off throughout the night, though they were so close to him that Major’s own mortar shells were practically raining down on him.

For three days his men held off multiple Chinese counter-assaults until reinforcements arrived. For his actions, Major was awarded the bar to the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

 

 

 

“I fought the war with only one eye, and I did pretty good.”

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In Zwolle a street was named after him with a subtext on the street sign saying “Canadian first liberator of Zwolle (1921–2008)”

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(the picture is taken by Jocely Major, whom I presume is either a daughter or grand-daughter)

It just goes to show that one man can make a difference.