Waging a Second Battle on the Home Front
Nisei veterans worked with other ethnic groups to make Hawaii a more equitable society.
Hawaii Congressional delegation with Governor John Burns and President Lyndon Johnson, Honolulu, Hawaii (1960s). (Photo: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library)
Many returning Nisei veterans, determined not to return to the oppressive plantation system, used the GI Bill to complete college and became businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and elected public oﬃcials.
(Photo: Central Pacific Bank)
Many Nisei were elected to the Hawaii Territorial Legislature. (Photo: Hawaii State Archives)
The Nisei veterans played a crucial part in achieving many milestones in Hawaii and U.S. history including:
- 1952 — Passage of a law to allow U.S. citizenship to Issei and other Asian immigrants.
- 1954 — Rise of the Democratic Party in Hawaii. Their collaboration with labor advocates from different ethnic groups helped to unseat the Caucasian-dominated Republican party in the Territorial Legislature.
- 1959 — Hawaii’s admission to the U.S. as the 50th state.
- 1950s — Nisei veterans worked with Issei businessmen to found banking institutions like Central Pacific Bank to provide opportunities for minorities otherwise denied by Caucasian-controlled banks.
- 1984 — Senator Spark Matsunaga (100th Infantry Battalion veteran) lobbied for 22 years and persuaded the U.S. Congress to establish a U.S. Peace Institute in 1984.
- 1988 — Senators Spark Matsunaga and Daniel Inouye (442nd RCT veteran) were instrumental in the congressional eﬀort to right the wrongs of the WWII internment of those of Japanese ancestry and to secure an apology from the U.S. Government. Along with the Japanese American Citizens League, their eﬀorts led to the enactment of the U.S. Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which provided a formal Presidential apology for the mass internment and financial compensation for those incarcerated.
Nisei veterans sacrificed and risked much in the face of prejudice to create and expand equal opportunities for their generation and future ones. Their post-war efforts led to the development of Hawaii’s modern society where ethnic minorities can now aspire to the highest levels of political, economic and social life.
President Ronald Reagan signing the U.S. Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Washington, D.C. (August 10, 1988). (Photo: President Ronald Reagan Library)