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About the Collection

This collection consists of images of Japanese-Canadian Soldiers who fought in World War I and World War II. This collection was created to mark the 100th anniversary of Japanese-Canadians enlisting in WWI. The images in the collection were donated to Nikkei National Museum by multiple donors.

Japanese-Canadian Soldiers in WWI

At the outbreak of World War I in September 1915, Japanese-Canadian men did not have the right to vote nor were they considered equal to white Canadian men. The Japanese-Canadian community had long struggled to gain equal rights, and they saw enlisting as soldiers in WWI as an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to Canada. They formed the Canadian Japanese Volunteer Corps, which was financed through the community. Their motivation for creating the corps and enlisting in WWI can be found in their motto: "the men go not only as soldiers to fight in the Canadian war. They go to sacrifice themselves in battle to achieve rights here at home... the question of franchise is still not settled...in British Columbia."

The recruiting office in British Columbia refused to allow non-Caucasian men to join the army, so men from British Columbia had to go to Alberta in order to volunteer to fight. The first Japanese Canadian soldier to enlist in WWI jointed the 13th Mounted Rifles in Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1916. In June 1916, the first 42 Japanese soldiers departed for Europe. Once in Europe these men joined the 50th Battalion. Japanese-Canadian soldiers fought in some of the largest and most recognizable battlers of the war, including: Vimy Ridge, Ypres, Passchendaele, and Amiens.

Two-hundred and twenty-two Japanese-Canadians enlisted in WWI. By the end of the war, 54 of them had died, 92 had been wounded, and 11 received Military medals for bravery. Forty-seven of the soldiers who lost their lives are portrayed in the Honour Roll. Unfortunately, seven of the portraits have been lost since 1919.
Sadly, the hope for franchise was not realized upon the soldiers' return home. In 1931 Japanese Canadians finally won the right to vote.

Japanese-Canadian Soldiers in WWII

All of the items in the WWII component of this collection are from the personal archives of Shogi Peter Yamauchi. The family of Mr. Yamauchi donated his documents to Nikkei Museum in 2009. Following Pearl Harbour in December of 1941, most Japanese-Canadians were moved to internment camps. WWI veterans were some of the 22,000 Japanese-Canadians held in these camps. Following the war, over three thousand Japanese-Canadians chose to be repatriated to Japan.

Sources:

Bramham, D. (2014, September 5). "Japanese-Canadians Fought for their Country and Acceptance". Vancouver Sun.

Miki, Roy. (2004). Redress: Inside Japanese-Canadian Call for Justice. Vancouver: Raincoast Books.

 

 

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