Japanese American Internee 48-Star American Flag Signing at MVBT

Judge Johnny Cepeda Gogo in his courtroom chambers

The Mountain View BWA was honored to host a 48-star American Flag Signing event on Sunday, January 9, 2022 at our Mountain View Buddhist Temple. 

Santa Clara County Superior Judge Johnny Cepeda Gogo’s aspiration is to educate current and future generations, and honor surviving Japanese Americans of the WWII U.S. incarcerations camps.  He obtained several WWII-era, 48-star American flags with the intent of having survivors sign the flag.  Through 2021, Judge Gogo has been traveling the country to many locations to obtain these signatures. 

At our Temple, over 25 MVBT members, family and friends were greeted by Judge Gogo and were able to sign his fourth flag.  The flag signing took place outside in the covered area between the hondo and Sangha Hall.  Participants patiently remained in their cars, until their designated time to sign.  For our event, the signatures on the flag represented internees who were incarcerated from 1942 through 1945 at Tule Lake, Jerome, Gila River, Heart Mountain, Poston, Topaz, Minidoka, Manzanar, Rohwer and Crystal City.  Some of the signers were young adults, young children, or born while incarcerated.  Those who served in the military were able to sign on one of the flag’s stars.

Judge Gogo also asked Heart Mountain internees to sign his copy of the book, “The Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America” written by Bradford Pearson.

Toshiko Masaki with daughter Gayle, signing The Eagles of Heart Mountain book

Everyone who attended, including the many volunteers, were deeply moved by the experience.

Chuck Uyeda – U.S. Army Colonel

Judge Gogo spoke with long-time Temple member Chuck Uyeda, who was interned at Tule Lake and Heart Mountain.  Judge Gogo remarked that it was very rare for Japanese Americans to achieve the rank of officer in the U.S. military.  He was honored to meet Chuck who retired with the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Army after a long and distinguished military career that included 30 years on active duty and in the reserves.

Chuck Uyeda (left) and Judge Gogo

Minoru Ikeda – Prisoner Exchange

Judge Gogo also learned about the prisoner exchange program when he spoke with Judy Nakano’s father, Minoru Ikeda, who was born in California and a teenager during WWII.  Minoru’s father was the President of the Japanese Association in Contra Costa County and was picked up by the FBI in 1942 and separated from his family who were sent to Gila River.  In 1943, Minoru’s father made the decision to be traded as a prisoner of war.  While Minoru’s sisters remained in the U.S., Minoru, his parents and brothers, were then shipped to Japan on the M.S. Gripsholm as prisoner exchanges.  Among the 1,513 passengers on board the Gripsholm were more than 100 Japanese American children and 737 Japanese from Latin America.  The journey took 74 days.  Minoru would return to the U.S. in 1956. 

Minoru Ikeda (left) and Judy Nakano

Three Flags Signed Earlier

After signing the flag, participants were able to view three previously signed flags that Judge Gogo had brought to be displayed.  The first flag was recently presented to the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.  The second flag will be given to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.  The third flag was given to the Fred T. Korematsu Institute. 

Fred Korematsu – Civil Rights Activist

Fred Korematsu resisted the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and became a civil-rights activist.  He lobbied Congress to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which gave compensation and an apology to former wartime detainees.  He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. An additional fifth flag that was not on display will be given to the Japanese American Museum of Oregon.

Flag signed at MVBT

Fourth Flag at MVBT

The fourth flag, signed by MVBT participants, traveled recently with Dr. Karen Korematsu to the Arizona State Legislature where Arizona Governor Douglas Ducey presented Fred Korematsu’s daughter with a proclamation recognizing Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.  Judge Gogo also plans to have this fourth flag used to educate current and future generations.  The flag will travel to colleges and universities with Santa Clara University Professor Renee Billingslea’s “Ten Japanese American Concentration Camps” photo exhibit.  Professor Billingslea’s exhibit juxtaposes recent photos of the ten major War Relocation Authority prison camps with photos from 1942 to 1945.  The photo exhibit can be viewed at:

http://www.reneebillingslea.com/#/tenjapaneseconcentrationcamp/

As part of the 7th Annual Commemoration of Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on January 30, 2022, a special Zoom recording was made.  It includes Judge Gogo discussing his flag signing project and presenting the flags to the Japanese American Museum of San Jose and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute. The recording can be viewed at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHkm6B_HT8o&ab_channel=RaymondPlaza

For more information and photos from the MVBT American Flag Signing, please see the web site link:

https://sangha.mvbuddhisttemple.org/events/flag-signing/

 Thank You to MVBT Volunteers

Thank you to the MVBT Health and Safety Committee, Julie Nakatani, Bob Matsumoto, Yumi Higa, and our volunteers at the flag signing:  Reiko Murakami, Ray Murakami, Eric Arakaki, Amy Arakaki, Will Dea, Lois Okino, Kendall Dea, Lorrie Kitasoe, Shirley Matsumoto, Peter Matsumoto, Glenn Kitasoe and Phyllis Chan for their help and support with this event.

Thank You to Judge Gogo

On behalf of BWA, all who participated, our many volunteers and the Mountain View Buddhist Temple, we graciously thank Judge Gogo for inviting our Temple to be a part of his project to honor Japanese Americans of the WWII incarceration camps for their sacrifice and to honor their legacy and memory. 

In Gassho,

MVBT BWA Flag Signing Committee

Reiko Murakami, Lois Okino and Shirley Matsumoto

Esther Bunya signing the flag

Robert Kusumoto signing a star for military service
From Left: Toshiko Uyehara, Alice Ishida and Sadao Ishida signing the flag
Misao Tanouye signed Heart Mountain book, “The Eagles of Heart Mountain”
Kimiyo Nishimura: Santa Anita & Heart Mountain
Mel and Audrey Inouye: Heart Mountain
Naomi Ariyama: Topaz
Carolyn Sakae: Gila River, with daughter
Ida Fuji, born in Salinas Assembly & Poston
Ben Horita: U.S. Army
Reiko Murakami: Minidoka
Ray Murakami: Gila River