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Kuwada, Kazuo

Biography:


Kazuo Kuwada was born on November 7, 1919, to Saisuke and Masa Kimura Kuwada in Wapato, Washington. He was the oldest of five children—he had one brother, James Makoto, and three sisters, Noriko, Toshiko, and Yukiko. The family lived in the Yakima Valley area, where Saisuki Kuwada had a truck farm. Kuwada spent six years in Japan as a child, from 1928 to 1934, where he lived with extended family and attended school. Back in Washington, Kuwada helped bring produce to farmers’ markets and, once he was older, helped his father with the truck farm itself. The Kuwada family was forced to leave their home in Yakima on the day that Kazuo was to graduate from Yakima High School in 1942. They went first to the Portland Assembly Center, arriving on June 6, 1942, before being sent to Heart Mountain, stepping off the train in Wyoming on August 31, 1942. Kuwada lived in apartment 15-15-E.

While incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Kuwada left camp for seasonal work, harvesting sugar beets and helping with other farm work in Ontario, Oregon. Kuwada had a background in welding, auto mechanic work, and woodworking from his time at Yakima High School. At Heart Mountain, he was involved with athletics and the cabinet making shop, where he made things for his mother to use in the family barrack. He also taught a Sunday School class. Kuwada tried to leave camp permanently in 1943, pursuing employment as an auto mechanic first in Chicago, Illinois and later in Cleveland, Ohio.

Kuwada answered Yes to Question 28 on the loyalty questionnaire, but gave a qualified answer to Question 27, writing: “No — when citizenship status is clarified, also because of the present & past condition toward the treatment of Nisei.” At some point during his experience of being removed from his home, unable to graduate high school, and then incarcerated with his family in Wyoming, Kuwada’s understanding of patriotism had shifted. Rather than demonstrating his patriotism through his desire to help save the nation’s food supply, Kuwada decided to fight for his citizenship through different means—after receiving his draft notice, he refused to show up for his pre-induction physical. He was arrested on April 7, 1944 and, along with the other draft resisters, including his brother, was tried, convicted and sentenced in June 1944 to three years in the federal prison at McNeil Island, Washington.

The rest of the Kuwada family left Heart Mountain for Spokane, Washington,in late October 1945. He was released in July 1946 and was pardoned by President Harry Truman on December 24, 1947. Kuwada married Kazuko Horiuchi on July 22, 1947. Kazuo Kuwada died on April 2, 2006 in Spokane, Washington.

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