Why George Takei loves the country that betrayed him

These days, the general public knows George Takei for two things: his role as one of the most hilarious people on social media, and his role as Starfleet veteran Hikaru Sulu.

But there’s a lot more to the man. Born in 1937, he grew up at an interesting time for Japanese-Americans.

George Takei (left) stands with his mother and siblings during their internment at Camp Tule Lake in California. The inset image at top right shows Takei as a kindergartener at Camp Rohwer in Arkansas.

“When Pearl Harbor was bombed,” Takei said in a recent TED talk, “young Japanese-Americans, like all young Americans, rushed to their draft board to volunteer to fight for our country. That act of patriotism was answered with a slap in the face. We were denied service, and categorized as enemy non-alien.”

His grandparents immigrated to the United States from Japan. His mother and father met in Los Angeles, where Takei was born. Now 78, he was four years old on December 7, 1941, when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and took the U.S. into World War II. 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were rounded up and put into ten internment camps for the duration of the war. This was by all counts an unlawful imprisonment of American citizens. No one was excluded, including the Japanese-American being imprisoned in the Life photo below.

sjifkQl

Takei goes on to describe the Japanese-Americans conscripted from the internment camps and their two-pronged fight in the war – the fight against the enemy and their fight for recognition as proud American citizens.

“…the astounding thing,” Takei says, “is that thousands of young Japanese-American men and women again went from behind those barbed-wire fences, put on the same uniform as that of our guards, leaving their families in imprisonment, to fight for this country… They said that they were going to fight not only to get their families out from behind those barbed-wire fences, but because they cherished the very ideal of what our government stands for.”

https://youtu.be/LeBKBFAPwNc?t=11m13s

He refers to the U.S. Army’s 442d Regimental Combat Team. Sent to Europe in 1944, the 442d boasted over 9,000 Purple Hearts, 8 Presidential Unit Citations, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, and 21 Medals of Honor. For a unit of just over 3,000 troops, they also had the extremely high casualty rate of 93%. They are best known for their actions against Nazi General Albert Kesselring’s Gothic Line in Italy, which Takei describes in his talk.

442

“They are my heroes and my father is my hero, who understood democracy and guided me through it. They gave me a legacy, and with that legacy comes a responsibility, and I am dedicated to making my country an even better America, to making our government an even truer democracy, and because of the heroes that I have and the struggles that we’ve gone through, I can stand before you as a gay Japanese-American, but even more than that, I am a proud American.”

Now: This Vietnam-era wounder warrior heads ‘the most unique memorial ever built’ >

TOP ARTICLES
SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

SpaceX is launching a secretive mission this month. The mission, shrouded in secrecy, has some considering it may be for the CIA or the NSA.

This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields

The Air Force is looking toward a light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that meets its needs and gets the job done.

A retired SEAL commander on how to stop thinking and 'get after it' every day

This former Navy commander has some excellent advice on how to jump start your day, and "get some" in order to make it as productive as possible.

Marines return to battle in 'old stomping grounds'

The Marines recall their "old stomping grounds" as they return to Fallujah and the surround areas of Al Anbar Province to battle a new enemy.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China has stepped up it's drone game, and even though United States technology can still compete, China's drones are kind of really in demand.

That time two countries' Special Forces squared off in combat

In an area the size of the Falkland Islands, British and Argentine special operators were bound to run into each other at some point – a lot.

5 times pilots got in trouble for having fun in the sky

When pilots decide to do some fancy flying in their high-performance fighters, it can land them in trouble once they're back on the ground.

This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers 'devils in baggy pants'

"American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night," wrote one German commander.

9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe

Many bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for social media purposes — and we're glad they did. Laugh away, America!

US Army recruitment campaigns, ranked from worst to best

Advertising can really impact recruitment for the military. For better or for worse, here are some of the Army's most memorable slogans...