DRAFT RESISTER: Rights Violated, He Wouldn’t Fight

By Jeannie Wong

Sacramento Bee Staff Writer



In 1942, Noboru Taguma was ahead of his time.

While most people now condemn the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II, Taguma expressed his feelings loudly and clearly 50 years ago.

He resisted the draft. He was among only about 300 Japanese-Americans — all interned — who did so, saying that forced detention violated their constitutional rights.

It was an unpopular move, one that is still frowned upon by some in the Japanese-American community and is overlooked by most history books.

“I don’t care,” said Taguma, now 68 and living in West Sacramento. “I did it mainly for my parents, the other Issei (first-generation Japanese). What they were doing to them, to all of us, was wrong. I was going to fight, but in the courts.”

In a terse letter to the government, Taguma ticked off the reasons why he would not report: “I felt that refusal to cooperate with Selective Service was the most effective protest I could make against injustice suffered,” he wrote. “Had I not been deprived of these constitutional rights, I would have gladly accepted . . . military service.”

Taguma was to be joined by about 30 other young men – a handful of them from Yolo County – who also were interned in a camp at Amache, Colo. They were all to be imprisoned for their resistance.

In looking back, Taguma said he would not have done anything differently. “It was the prime of my life, but I’m still glad I did it,” he insisted.

Tales like Taguma’s and of a group of young draft resisters in Heart Mountain, Wyo., need to be heard if the true history of internment is to be learned, said Wayne Maeda, guest curator of a Sacramento exhibit on the Japanese-American experience.

Taguma agreed.

“The only thing I regret is that I could not help my folks,” he said. “They were poor from the beginning, and I was going to help them modernize their farm. I was young and strong. But then the war came, and I never had the chance.”


Noboru Taguma stands beside a scale model of a typical barracks in which Japanese-American families lived at the camps.

Bee/Skip Shuman

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