We’ve all heard the hullabaloo over the proposed Islamic building in New York City, two blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood. It made me think of Boy Scout Troop 379 in Los Angeles.
Troop 379 had a fine drum and bugle corps. I heard it in the 1980s at a barbecue in Paso Robles.
Troop 379 was formed in 1931 in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. Its drum and bugle corps, formed the following year, was praised by the National Marine Band conductor and by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Then, on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese planes devastated the U.S fleet at Pearl Harbor. We were suddenly at war.
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West Coast Americans feared an imminent attack. Anti-Japanese fear and hatred were enflamed. President Roosevelt authorized military leaders to designate vital areas and to remove anyone considered a threat. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese descent — about two-thirds of them citizens — were sent to 10 concentration camps in remote areas of the West.
The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment says, “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
Many Troop 379 members and their families were taken to Wyoming’s Heart Mountain camp. They were housed in hastily built wooden barracks with tarpaper siding.
In less than a year the camp’s Boy Scout membership increased from 150 to 337. Every morning they raised the American flag with a bugle call.
All Japanese-American young men born in the U.S. were invited to enlist in the Army. Volunteers from the camps joined with others to form the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The 442nd fought in Europe. It was the most decorated unit in American history for its size and time of service. At least two former Troop 379 members were killed in action.
In 1980, a government commission decided the internments resulted from “race prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership.” In 1988, President Reagan signed a law that apologized and gave each surviving internee $20,000.
Now, regarding the New York Islamic building, the Constitution’s first amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Islam is a religion. Let’s be smart enough to avoid “race prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership.”