Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga

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Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga (born August 5, 1925) is a political activist who played a major role in the Japanese American redress movement. She was the lead researcher of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a bipartisan federal committee appointed by Congress in 1980 to review the causes and effects of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II. Herzig-Yoshinaga, who was confined in the Manzanar, California and Jerome and Rohwer, Arkansas concentration camps as a young woman,[1] uncovered government documents that debunked the wartime administration's claims of "military necessity" and helped compile the CWRIC's final report, Personal Justice Denied, which led to the issuance of a formal apology and reparations for former camp inmates. She also contributed pivotal evidence and testimony to the Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Yasui coram nobis cases.

Herzig-Yoshinaga was a high school senior in Los Angeles, California when President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized military commanders to designate areas from which "any or all persons may be excluded," and she was forced to leave school for camp before receiving her diploma.[2] She gave birth to her first child in Manzanar, before transferring to Jerome and Rohwer and eventually divorcing her then-husband.[3] After the war, she left camp and settled in New York. She remarried and had two more children before divorcing again, and took a job as a clerical worker to support her family.[2]

In the 1960s, Herzig-Yoshinaga became involved with Asian Americans for Action, a civil rights organization. In 1978, she married John Herzig and moved to Washington, D.C., where she began examining documents on the incarceration that had recently been made available to the public in the National Archives. Often putting in fifty- or sixty-hour weeks, she worked to retrieve and catalog thousands of significant documents over the next several years.[2] She joined the National Council for Japanese American Redress in 1980 (the same year the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was created) and contributed her archival research to NCJAR's class-action lawsuit seeking reparations from the government. The following year, in 1981, Herzig-Yoshinaga was hired by the CWRIC as its lead researcher, and she soon after unearthed one of the most significant pieces of evidence in the case for redress.[2][3] The wartime military leadership had attempted to destroy its "Final Report on Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast," which explicitly stated that intelligence sources agreed Japanese Americans posed no threat to U.S. security, in 1943; Herzig-Yoshinaga tracked down the single remaining copy of the Final Report and shared it with the CWRIC, NCJAR and redress activists.[2] Thanks in large part to the discovery of this document, the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and Minoru Yasui were overturned, and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 granted an official apology and $20,000 to each camp survivor or their heirs.[3] Herzig-Yoshinaga later worked in the Department of Justice's Office of Redress Administration to identify Japanese Americans eligible for reparations.[1]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Discover Nikkei "Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga" (accessed 10 June 2014)
  2. ^ a b c d e Thomas Y. Fujita-Rony. "Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga" Densho Encyclopedia (accessed 10 June 2014).
  3. ^ a b c Kate Linthicum. "Dogged quest for truth leads to justice for Japanese Americans interned during WWII" Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2011 (accessed 10 June 2014).

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