Shinseki, Japanese American Internment and Pilipino WWII Veterans

For all Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders, it is both poetic justice and a major milestone when President-elect’s Obama named Japanese American General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs on the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the nation questioned the loyalty of Japanese Americans, a sentiment which quickly devolved into the forcible internment of over a 110,000 Japanese Americans. Lieutenant General John DeWitt declared “A Jap is a Jap” and told Congress, “I don’t want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty.” On the mainland, the US government rounded-up anyone with at least one drop of Japanese blood.

Exactly 67 years later, 34th Chief of Staff of the US Army General Eric Shinseki stands to be the first Asian American to be the first US Secretary of Veteran Affairs. Coincidently, Shinseki, in 2006, began traveling around the country as a spokesperson for the “Go For Broke National Education Center,” an organization dedicated to preserving and educating about the contributions of Japanese American soldiers in World War II. The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans who fought in World War II, adopted the motto, “go for broke.” “There is no other story in the history of the U.S. Army like this one, and given the conditions that gave rise to the extraordinary valor of Japanese American soldiers, there may never be another story like it again,” stated Shinseki.

As history comes full circle, lets hope justice will also carry Pilipino World War II veterans who have yet to receive long-denied veteran benefits for their service.

— John Delloro

Note: The AAA-Fund welcomes a diversity of views and voices. In that spirit, the views expressed in this article are the author's own. Unless an article states that it was written by the AAA-Fund or its Board of Directors, it does not necessarily reflect the views of the AAA-Fund.


  1. Caroline says:

    While I would have loved to see the first female Asian American VA Secretary, I think that the choice of Shinseki is also superb. The Obama team has consistently provided rounded out narratives and pitch-perfect storylines to their well-qualified picks. Even from the Hillary-Obama coming together at Unity, NH to Obama’s speech at the DNC they have understood the full weight of history and the impact of closure.

    Here’s a good account of Shinseki and Wolfie’s disagreement.

    I had wondered what would happen to Taguba and Shinseki, the two Asian American generals who served our country by offering honest, if uncomfortable truths. Now we have part of that answer.

  2. Thane of Towson says:

    Bosko Obama’s naming Shinseki on Pearl Harbor Day will live in inanity. Who was Bosko Obama trying to embarrass? Shinseki or the Pearl Harbor survivors?

  3. Quan says:


    The lessons of history are such that the era of colonialism will never see an end until the colonized turn the other cheek and forgive the colonialists, the abused the abuser. Forgive, but never forget.

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