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Early Japanese American Pioneers
Japanese immigrants found farming in northern California profitable. In the area of Florin Japanese Americans found the growing of grapes and strawberries to be an ideal combination. Planting strawberries in between the rows of grape vines provided the Florin farmers a marketable crop for the five years it would take the grape vines to mature. Japanese American farming ingenuity and hard work allowed them to produce the maximum yield from their land. In fact by 1941 Florin farmers celebrated a record breaking year for Tokay Grape production by shipping 130 carloads from the Southern Pacific station of Florin. Strawberry production was not far behind with a record breaking shipment of 129 carloads in one season, which did not include any of the shipments to local markets. By 1941 Florin was known as the "strawberry capitol" of California. Walnut Grove farmers were producing hops and asparagus. Marysville and Loomis farmers were producing a variety of vegetables, hops and pears. In addition, Colusa farmers were producing rice and beans. Rice production was so successful in Colusa and Butte counties that several rice companies developed under the ownership of Japanese American farmers. The outbreak of World War II and the imprisonment of Japanese Americans spelled the end of the thriving Japanese American farming communities on the West coast. Farming communities like Florin and others never recovered from the internment experience. A small number of Issei and Nisei continued to support their families by farming, but many more of the Nisei generation sought white collar jobs as the hostility and discrimination aimed at Japanese Americans began to lessen.
Sacramento's Japan Town was located within an area of some five to six blocks. The community was bounded by 2nd Street on the west, to 5th Street on the east, and L to O Streets going from north to south. The heart of the Japan Town was located between L and M Streets and 3rd and 4th Streets. Turn of the century Japanese immigrants discovered they were not welcomed in white boarding houses. Consequently by 1891, a lodging house and two hotels were opened for business to provide housing for the Japanese labor force. By 1910, there were over 200 Japanese businesses serving the early Japanese American community. On the eve of WWII there were some 470 thriving Japanese operated businesses in Sacramento.
For the early Japanese immigrants, who found themselves often not welcome in white business establishments, Sacramento Japan Town provided both essential staples and a sense of community. In fact, by 1910 there were churches, restaurants, grocery, fish and produce markets, furniture stores, barber shops, tofu makers, movie theatre, pool and billiard parlors, newspapers, dentist and doctor's offices, and banks. After WWII, Japan Town was a shadow of the pre-war community. There was an effort to reestablish Japan Town to its former pre-war population. Unfortunately, by the 1950's Japanese Americans who had resettled in Sacramento's Japan Town faced a second relocation. Sacramento's downtown redevelopment project forced Japan Town businesses to relocate. Redevelopment signaled the final chapter of a geographic Japan Town in Sacramento.
Evacuation and Internment
In January of 1943, Secretary of War, Henry Stinson announced that the Selective Service would now accept those Nisei originally classified 4-C, "enemy aliens" and that an all Nisei-combat team would be formed. The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed almost entirely of volunteers from Hawaii and the concentration camps. Under the command of General Jacob Devers, the Combat Team fought in seven campaigns in three countries. They made two beachhead assaults, captured a submarine and open the gates of Dachau. At maximum strength, the 100th/442nd numbered 4,500 men, yet they earned over 18,000 individual decorations, including 9,486 Purple Hearts, 5,200 Bronze Stars and Seven Presidential Unit Citations. It is not surprising that the 100th/442nd earned the distinction of being the most decorated unit in United States military history. "They were superb: the men of the 100th/442nd took terrific casualties. They showed rare courage and tremendous fighting spirit…everybody wanted them," said George C. Marshall, General of the Army. The 100th/442nd was so admired by President Truman on July 15, 1946 the unit marched down Constitution Avenue and President Truman personally welcomed them home. President Truman said: "You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice…and you have won."
Military Intelligence Service
After a decade of pressure for monetary reparation from various segments of the Japanese American Community, Congress in 1980 passed an Act creating a Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. President Carter signed the Act that same year. The Commission found that there was no military necessity to justify the evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. During the Commission's investigation an analysis made by an independent firm determined the economic losses by 1983 dollars were estimated to be $2.5 billion to $6.2 billion. The Commission further concluded that evacuation and internment was the result of "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." These findings became the basis for redress bills to be introduced in both houses of Congress.
On January 6, 1987, after several initial failures to report redress bills out of the sub-committees, HR442 was reported out of the sub-committee and the Full House Committee on the Judiciary. On September 17, 1987, as a result of many Japanese American organizations, the House of Representatives passed HR442 by a vote of 243 to 141. A similar measure was also introduced and passed by the Senate. President Reagan signed HR442 into law on August 10, 1988. On October 9, 1991, letters of formal apology and checks from the United States Government were finally being issued to the oldest living survivors of internment.