Jan. 30 will honor those interned during war

More than 65 years after the end of World War II, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill last week that will establish a “Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day” to recognize more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans who were put in internment camps during the war.

Among those interned was the late Rev. Masao Arine of Maui, who was a detainee at the Haiku Detention Center.

The family of the Maui resident recalled the accounts of Arine, who was arrested as a suspicious alien on April 15, 1944, and held at the Haiku camp for about a year.

Though Arine was born and raised in Upcountry and spoke fluent English, soldiers from the 4th Marine Division, who presided over the camp, nicknamed him “Tojo,” after then-Japanese prime minister, Gen. Hideki Tojo, according to Arine’s oldest son, George.

Masao Arine had ties to the Maui Jinsha Shinto Shrine in Kahului. He had become assistant minister after the Rev. Yoshio Kobayashi had been arrested and transferred to an internment camp on the Mainland. Arine also was working as a bartender at the Maui Grand Hotel in Wailuku when authorities came to arrest him, said his son.

“Prior to his arrest, the authorities wanted him to conduct shortwave radio broadcasts from Honolulu to Japan to tell the Japanese people to overthrow the emperor,” George Arine said in an email. “He refused to do the broadcasts citing the Japanese people would blame him, and he would be disgraced and branded a traitor in Japan. He came home from that interrogation and told my mom, ‘They are going to arrest me tomorrow’ and sure enough the following day, the authorities arrested him.”

George Arine said that it was difficult for the family, with five sons and two daughters, to make ends meet while their dad was detained.

Japanese-American internees, who were usually teachers, business people, community leaders and Buddhist and Shinto priests, were typically held “temporarily” at the Maui camps before being moved to Sand Island on Oahu or transferred to internment camps on the Mainland, he added.

Because he wasn’t arrested until near the end of the war in August, Masao Arine was the sole detainee at the camp in Haiku; most of the others before him had already been transferred, according to George Arine.

Masao Arine died in 1971, but his son said he never heard his father “bad-mouth the authorities for his incarceration.”

It is not known whether Masao Arine ever tried to fight the charges against him in court.

“He didn’t say much (about the camp), nothing derogatory, but he did say he was fed pretty good and not harmed,” George Arine said.

He added that he thinks the new Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day is a good idea to spread awareness of a turbulent time in the country’s history that many often forget.

The holiday on Jan. 30 does not establish the day as a state holiday but instead is meant to “celebrate, honor and educate the public” about individuals who worked to preserve civil liberties that were threatened during wartime, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office on Friday.

“Civil Liberties and the Constitution Day will serve to recognize and remind us of the courage of those who remained committed to freedom, even when their own civil liberties and rights were being challenged,” Abercrombie said in a statement.

“It is the actions of these individuals – these brave ‘resisters’ – that best reflect the ideals of the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

The measure, Senate Bill 856, was passed unanimously by the Legislature earlier this year.

Some Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated during wartime for “defying government orders to report to an internment camp” appealed the charges to the U.S. Supreme Court but were initially rejected. In the 1980s, about 40 years later, charges against them were vacated.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at echao@mauinews.com.