Herbert Nicholson, once called “Friend Herbert” was considered a man of inspirational love and lifelong unselfish service designed to improve and promote the welfare of persons of Japanese ancestry. As a lifelong member of the Society of Friends he made his mission one to be devoted to the good of mankind. Having attended Quaker schools all his years of education, he saw his life only as a missionary. He married Madeline Waterhouse, also a missionary who was his partner in all missionary activity as were their children.
First going to Japan to work with the mission of Friends there, later becoming aware of the Second World War and the discrimination against the Japanese people in America, he returned to the United States to help those Japanese who had been taken from their homes and placed in camps, one of which was the Tuna Camp. There he met and befriended Merrill Scott who was director for that camp.
As time went by he became involved in a truck ministry, ferrying messages and materials to and from camps all over California as well as becoming a driving force in the effort to undo or mitigate the government injustices against the Japanese, primarily the false accusations due to racism, free the Japanese from the camps, pointing out the injustice of this unnecessary exercise.
After the war was over and the difficult job of repatriation was finished, he returned to Japan and other parts of Asia becoming known as “Uncle Goat”. His efforts to bring goats to the people of the area to help them to feed themselves were legendary.
Herbert and Madeline worked diligently for many years in often dangerous situations and with very little funding. As a man who preached in churches, spoke the Japanese language, who intervened in the lives of those who needed comfort and spiritual guidance, many people loved him. Of him it was said that Herbert always greeted people with great sincerity and friendliness. His Bible messages became alive and with real meaning. He was a man the Japanese looked to for joy, hope and love through those turbulent years of World War Two.
Herbert Victor Nicholson was considered “a man of extraordinary inspirational Christian love and lifelong unselfish dedicated service to improve and promote the welfare of persons of Japanese ancestry both in the United States and Japan during his lifetime, especially during those years when he was champion for the Japanese people.”1. Nicholson was an outspoken friend and ally, and the most high profiled non-Japanese advocate; he was bold, incisive and devoted to the good of mankind.
Herbert Nicholson was born into a Quaker family in 1892 in Rochester, New York. His parents had lived in Buffalo, New York and in Rahway, New Jersey. By then their family had grown to one of five boys and two girls. In each location the children attended Quaker schools where all the students were members of the Society of Friends. At home the children were taught respect for discipline and order as well as Bible verses and prayer sessions.
This Quaker education set Herbert’s mind toward the equality of all men and that belief ultimately prompted him to pursue work as a missionary in Japan. The belief of the Quakers holds, too, an outspoken refusal to take part in war and an attempt toward the brotherhood of all nations.
Herbert graduated in 1909 from Westtown, a Quaker boarding school and entered Haverford College, Pennsylvania, also a Quaker school. While there, after intense spiritual searching, he decided with certainty to be a missionary. After a 1915 experience as a participant in an evangelical meeting led by Billy Sunday, he was ready for a life of service.
At nineteen years of age he was eligible for the WW1 draft and was assigned to the Quaker Unit #37 as a conscientious objector assigned to a camp in the Sierras near Mammoth Lakes where he and others worked with the Forestry Department. 2.
On his 23 birthday he was invited, and he accepted an invitation to go to Japan since he had announce that he wanted to be a missionary in Japan. After enrolling in business courses to learn necessary skills for a job as secretary to a member of the Philadelphia Society of Friends Mission to Japan, he began working for a Quaker missionary in Tokyo, Gilbert Bowles.
It was there that he met his future wife, Madeline Waterhouse, an American Board Missionary living in the teacher’s residence while she attended language school. His job required that he take shorthand (badly, he said). His shorthand was so difficult to read that he instead became the official letter writer in order to relive his employer of the shorthand altogether. He also held an English Bible class for students from nearby universities. There he met many Japanese officials, learned to speak fluent Japanese and came to love the Japanese people.
After his marriage to Madeline Waterhouse in 1920 the couple continued to teach English, and in 1922 began to work with farm boys in the Mito area of Japan to suggest to the agricultural workers practical improvements that would ease the lives of rural farmers as well as to offer spiritual comfort. 3. Their most successful lifetime programs in Japan were to begin a savings account for the people, to launch a goat farm to fill a desperate need for milk, build a home for the aged, and minister to lepers.
In Japan, things began to change with the invasion of China by Japan. By 1939 the war became more prominent in the minds of the public and public officials. It was then, back in the mission field, that Nicholson was being looked at with suspicion as an American spy. In fact, during the 1930s he was under surveillance by the Japanese National Police. Plainclothesmen were watching wherever he was, then questioning the friends he had gone to visit. This proved to be disturbing to the families, so he was forced to stop calling on them.
Censorship became strict. As Herbert circulated The Christian Century magazine at meetings of missionaries, a magazine sent to him from America, and the suspicion surrounding him, he was barred from attending the pastor’s meetings. Due to that suspicion surrounding him, he and Madeline decided to resign, then return to Pasadena. They did spend one more year teaching at a boy’s school, the couple acting as house parents. The Nicholsons had been missionaries in Japan for 25 years.
Due in part to International tensions, the Nicholson family of Herbert, Madeline, a daughter and two sons, returned in 1940 to furlough in Pasadena, California, USA., Madeline’s home town. At that time they had been asked to serve in the West Los Angeles Japanese Church to fill in for an ailing minister.
Pearl Harbor, Evacuation of Japanese :
On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Naval Forces by air and sea (submarines) and the formal war declaration had been announced. Since in Japan he had learned to speak fluent Japanese he was called upon to preach in both Japanese and English while his wife worked as Sunday School Superintendent. Pearl Harbor Day found Nicholson the only Caucasian minister preaching in an all-Japanese church and, only because of his ancestry, was left behind when his parishioners were evacuated to various prison areas.
When Herbert and Madeline began a ministry in the West Los Angeles church all the people were unaware that the war would come close to the United States as quickly as it did. But on that day, December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese Naval Air Force, no one was prepared for such an attack, even though there had been warnings unheeded. The outrage caused by the American people caused a great upheaval with people shouting such slogans as “You Can’t trust A Jap”
“For the Japanese American community the Pearl Harbor disaster could not have come at a worse time. Decades of racist and anti-Oriental propaganda, plus an irrational fear of Orient conquest…brought to a head the long-standing tension”4. Federal laws prevented the Japanese from becoming Naturalized American Citizens or owning property. Particularly vocal were those people who were in competition with Japanese farmers and fishermen.
Nicholson and the Japanese During Wartime
Even before the war, the Nicholsons were aiding and ministering to Japanese people and churches. After Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942, Nicholson began the task of helping the Japanese to prepare to be sent to concentration camps. He helped a group of 500 fishing families who had been given 48 hours to evacuate Terminal Island, worked with the Quaker American Friends Service Committee, helped with packing and logistical matters, business affairs and storage of possessions. Prisoners could take to the camps only what they could carry.
He delivered hymn books, benches, pulpits, prisoner-requested belongings, donated gifts and other items, eventually putting 50,000 miles on a truck donated by one inmate. He delivered pets, the ashes of a beloved son, even a prisoner’s buried treasure unearthed near his home. All work was done with little or no pay.
Because of his experience in Japan, and his knowledge of the Japanese community he was requested to take a position with Naval Intelligence. Even before the Pearl Harbor attack, government agencies were recruiting missionaries and their children who were familiar with the Japanese people and the Japanese language. Lucrative salaries were offered. However, Nicholson turned down the offer, saying that he knew and loved the Japanese people. He in no way wanted to become involved with Naval Intelligence, the FBI or part of a staff at any of the Army or INS prison camps at any salary.
Of that Pearl Harbor day, Nicholson reported, and by that date, the Japanese preacher of the West Los Angeles Church had returned and Nicholson was preaching at the church in English only. Usually the parishioners invited the ministers over for lunch but that day the family ate in their car before they began their usual visits. It was after the service that they all heard that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. They got a crowd together and gathered in the church, all those present afraid because this terrible thing had happened. They had been concerned about the war coming closer, but had never imagined the act that had taken place. Both pastors volunteered to stay on in their positions, without pay.
That evening, at supper with an eighty year old gentleman, they learned that their host had just been told that he was on the FBI black list because he had been in the Japanese army in the 1905 Russo-Japanese war – as a non combatant. 5. They learned that another aged friend was picked up that night along with many old war veterans and community leaders. That knowledge galvanized Nicholson into action. He knew something had to be done, and immediately. He rushed the following morning to the Los Angeles Office of the FBI to plead the case of the Japanese people, Issei and Japanese American.
One night they went to a Buddhist Temple in Fresno. Nicholson said that “Inside were five or six Buddhist priests, mostly language teachers. They had come from Japan and were just frightened to pieces. They were sitting in front of the fire; it was cold as it was in January. One of the young priests said ‘there was a young man picked up – a Christian Japanese – who is an honest man. They had no business getting him. He was in the insurance business. He was quite active in the Japanese Association. I’d like to take his place so he could go back to his wife.’” most Buddhist priests had not been picked up yet.
Nicholson’s purpose then was to undo or mitigate the government injustices against the Japanese, primarily, the deliberately false accusations due to racism before and, especially after the Pearl harbor attack.
His Work During the War Years
During those war years, Nicholson spent his time traveling back and forth from camp to camp carrying messages, hope and encouragement from relatives at other camps. He ferried belongings and people between detention centers, concentration camps and medical facilities. He organized a letter writing campaign and himself wrote a multitude of letters defending individuals and the cause he believed in; that incarceration of the Japanese, Germans and Italians was a despicable and un-American practice. He spoke for the groups in churches and in Washington, D.C. All his work was done independently from the government and for little or no pay. All that time he was under surveillance by the American Government for his involvement in the American Friends Service and his outspoken opinions written and published by the Demoines Register-Tribune, 1945, criticizing the U.S. Government’s wartime decisions to arrest and incarcerate Japanese who were American people, trying to give them some truthful information. In his talks with officials concerning the reports about the Japanese being made of some of the awful things happening, as well as the lies printed in news reports, he stressed, “Those things are not true. Those reports are lies!” He talked with a commander that he had known in Japan pleading the cause of the Japanese and condemning the lies about them. The Naval commander agreed, but, as with the FBI, the commander could do nothing. “It’s not my job to give publicity.”5. In Honolulu those very leaders had spread the lies. Nicholson at that time was under surveillance by the FBI. Both Japan and America were suspicious of him.
Even the Federation of Churches personnel turned against the Japanese, believing the untrue reports. People then were convinced that all Japanese people were spies or worse, classified as “potentially dangerous enemy aliens.”
When the Tuna Canyon Detention Station opened in an old CCC Camp in Tujunga, California, a camp that would hold 300 people, all of whom had been picked up by the FBI, not by Presidential Proclamation 9066, but by three previous Executive Orders covering the Japanese Issei, Germans and Italian immigrants who were considered Enemy Aliens. There were exceptions such as the Japanese brought from South America who would become hostages to trade for Americans held in Asia. The Army enforced these commands.
Nicholson said, “They began bringing men in there instead of taking them down to Terminal Island. When they got three hundred, they would ship them out, a whole trainload of them, up to some other place.”6. Frank Yamuchi said that if not for Nicholson’s phone calls to families they would not have known where their father and brothers were taken. Frank said that during one visit his grandfather got to see his one year old grandson walk for the first time on the other side of the barbed wire fence.
At the Tuna Camp Herbert met Merrill Scott, INS officer, whom he describe as “a wonderful man.” Scott reported that those people were defined as “potentially dangerous” and the camps were continuing to take in more and more prisoner as public opinion demanded.
Frank Toshinori Yamauchi, a Japanese-language teacher in Palos Verdes and an insurance agent based in Gardena, California was arrested by the FBI in February, 1942. His family could find no way to know where he had been taken. There were no lawyers, was no recourse. Herbert heard of this man called the families of those arrested and informed them of their family members’ detention at Tuna Canyon in Tujunga, California. There, during a family visit, Frank’s grandfather was able to see his one year old grandson, Frank’s father, walk for the first time. 6
In Nicholson’s book Treasures in Earthen Vessels he speaks of being a witness at hearings for Japanese woman language teachers who were confined in Los Angeles. The hearing officer was a large, rough-spoken man, extremely anti-Japanese who had been very rude to Gurney Binford and made Mrs. Minomoto cry at her hearing. “When it was my turn to talk I told him that Mrs. Minanoto’s patriotism was way above his and that he should be ashamed of himself for making her cry.” the next day he thanked me for what I had said and Mrs. Imamoto was cleared. This is just one of the many hearings around the country that he attended, often traveling at night on trains to save on motel expense and was not afraid to hitchhike when needed.
Many are not aware of another institution a few miles from the Tuna Camp in La Crescenta, the Hillcrest Sanitarium which was taken over by the government for Japanese with tuberculosis or other serious illness and too ill or contagious to move to one of the concentration camps who would be held there under guard. Herbert and his wife, Madeline were both involved at Hillcrest. Herbert was the minister and Madeline, who had learned to drive when Herbert was away so that she could visit on Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons. Each week she drove into town to buy things that patients needed. The sanitarium was so short of help that any patient who could walk had a job. Both Madeline and Herbert were on call at night when a patient was nearing the end. If a patient needed blood, Herbert would have a blood drive at their church because of war, blood was in short supply on the home front. They were in charge of the Vesper Service Sunday afternoons and would invite ministers from different denominations to take part. In the end, Herbert and a Catholic priest would both pray over a patient..
An open letter to John J. McCloy of New York, Assistant Secretary of War under Roosevelt, dated January 5, 1978 from Herbert Nicholson indicates some of his activity after the war was over. As Assistant Secretary of War, McCloy was a major player who had pushed for the internment. Promises had been made by McCloy to Herbert Nicholson that when they got near Japan, there would be no bombing of civilians; only military objectives. A second promise had been made that since it had been pressure of public opinion only that kept Japanese Americans in camps, and that if he received enough letters the internees would be permitted to return to their homes.
Along with a real estate man, William Carr of Pasadena, who had organized “The Fair Play Committee” in support of the Japanese, they sent thousands of letters to Washington on behalf of Japanese Americans. During the war Carr worked with the Japanese by renting their homes for them. A letter writing campaign was begun that resulted in 150,000 letters reaching McCloy within four months.
Evidently the government men got their way, breaking all promises, for a year later, Tokyo and Yokohama were fire bombed at night, killing civilian populations, followed by bombings all over Japan. Finally came Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“You did keep your second promise when we got hundreds of thousands of letters to you demanding the opening of he camps. My sincere gratitude to you for this.”Herbert continued to be relentless in his letter writing to officials as well as continuing aid to those who had been in camps. John McCloy never replied, but Nicholson said he heard that McCloy’s objections were over ridden.
Truck Driving Missionary:
“The experience of one of my friends is impressive,” wrote Kirby in the appendix to Valiant Odyssey. Herbert Nicholson, after twenty-five years of missionary service in Japan with the Quakers, is now running a free trucking service in and out of Los Angeles to the Manzanar, Poston, and Gila River centers. He does every conceivable type of shopping and errand running for many of the 35,000 residents of these centers, and hauls everything from pianos to canary birds. On one return trip he carried with him for burial the ashes of a friend’s beloved son. He is entrusted with keys to safety deposit vaults and is sometimes authorized to sign valuable papers. He visits sick relatives in Los Angeles hospitals. Twice he has made long tours of concentration camps, bringing and taking messages for husbands and sons behind the barbed wire.”
In January, 1945, when prisoners had begun leaving the prison camps, Nicholson helped haul furniture back to Southern California, place manzanar returnees in jobs as gardeners, and establish the Evergreen Hostel for returning prisoners in Boyle heights. 7.
The truck was a ton and a half Dodge diesel, according to his son, Samuel Nicholson, loaned to him by Tom Yamamoto to haul Yamamoto’s furniture and belongings. After delivering the items, Herbert gave back the truck and the cash from the sale of another truck. He next trip was from West Los Angeles church to deliver things to the camp, Yamamoto took Herbert aside and told him that since he had rescued so many things and sold his truck, he wanted to give Nicholson the truck. But Herbert took it as a loan. The trips to Manzanar were 500 miles and to Poston and Gila camps 1,000 miles. Of interest, the truck used for his ministry and because Nicholson was a pastor, was given a “C” sticker so he could get the gas that he needed. Along with loads of possessions he took messages to and from internees on his journeys.
Samuel rode with him from Pasadena to Poston and Gila River with a box of flowers and three dogs on top of the load. The appearance of the truck in camp was greeted like the arrival of Santa Claus…and for this manifold service he makes no charge whatsoever.”.
Not all trips were successful and not all Japanese people were overjoyed. Some negative experiences did occur. Twice he was called a thief by a prisoner who had benefitted from his service. Though Herbert fulfilled his obligation, the man still did not trust him.
On one occasion Nicholson, who had a young man drive with him, woke in a motel with a gun pointed to his head. Accused of stealing money from the motel cash register, along with the suspicion that he was a spy, he was arrested and jailed until police discovered that it was the young man who had done the stealing. A call was made to the Denver office of the W.R.A., and the gruff jailer heard Nicholson’s explanation of the situation at the camps, they parted friends.
Of Nicholson, Togo W. Tamaka, (Japanese American Oral History Project, 1973) said:
“My memory of Herbert Nicholson is a person who always brought to camp, not only all the things…but mostly he would bring good cheer. He would really restore the spirits of people, and refuel them, and make them have hope. To me he just stands out as one of those very rare and few people who, when people really need this kind of propping up the most, he was there. He’s a very earthy and pragmatic man. He’s the kind of person who pitches in and does things. He is a doer more than a person who sits back and thinks and contemplates. But I never met anyone who, having met Herbert Nicholson, didn’t remember him with a smile. I think of how he was regarded by evacuees: they respected and liked many people, but I think they loved Herbert Nicholson. He’s an unusual man.”
In a phone conversation with Marlene and Lloyd Hitt, Nicholson’s oldest son, Samuel told that he helped his father on three or four trips to Manzanar. He remembers hauling heavy furniture up the stairs of the Los Angeles Methodist Church chapel basement where many of the Japanese had stored items that they could not take with them. The truck bed was high and the goods stacked as high as possible. Samuel remembers the truck being almost full and a very heavy chest of drawers was still to be loaded. By then they were too tired to lift it up to the bed and instead they tied it on to the front bumper.
Another trip near Christmas, 1942, became a Christmas like no other at the Manzanar camp. On December six there were riots over an attack on a member of the JACL the night before by by six masked men. Harry Ueno of the Kitchen Workers Union was accused and arrested. Several thousand evacuees gathered and a riot ensued and when tear gas did not stop them shots were fired by the military and two of the Japanese were killed, several wounded. There also seemed to be an issue with the Chinese cooks in the camp. The camp was put on lock down and Christmas was delayed. Herbert and Samuel showed up a few days after Christmas with four to five thousand toys that the church and William Carr’s group, The Fair Play Committee, had collected. The camp then settled down and returned to normal.
One would wonder how, knowing the family finances of a minister and missionary came from. As missionary members they would receive stipends and basic living conditions. This would be true also as remittance for the church ministry, Hillcrest ministry and perhaps weddings and funerals. For the work done for the Japanese internees Nicholsons received no pay. They had speaking engagements to groups as fund raisers and sometimes money would come in an envelope, an offering from the people who so admired his care and effort. The truck he used was on loan as was a car and was dutifully returned after its many miles traveled. Once only a mission in Japan made a donation. A good opportunity came from a friend who hired him to take a group from Honolulu on a tour of churches, schools and such in Japan.
On one occasion, the Emporer Hirohito of Japan. sent a New Year’s gift 0f 30,000 yen or nearly $100 dollars. On another, after a disappointing address, an envelope was slipped into his pocket containing $1000. The family thrived in their work and personal life, though not with money.
Nicholson wrote in his book Comfort All Who Mourn that it was his job to go around to the various evangelical Christian churches and present a project. None of those churches supported one endeavor for “fear of comforting the enemy”. He continues: “however there were always a few individuals in each church who were willing to help us”.
In an article by Naomi Hirahara in A Tale of Tomodachi she tells about a book store in Pasadena, a store we all know; Vroman’s and their involvement with Manzanar. Vroman’s founder was Adam Clark and his wife, Esther who was a Quaker. Most people don’t know of the connection between the book store and Manzanar. Vroman’s was a California State depository for state textbooks. They made sure that every student had the textbooks needed free, and they were delivered by none other than Herbert Nicholson. They also used Herbert’s delivery service to bring assorted books to Manzanar for purchase by the Japanese prisoners.
Rose Honda and Nobu Niwas remember the time of relocation, the process of leaving the WWII camps and returning to the “outside world”. Each person received $25 and a train ticket to his final destination.
In 1945 the camps closed and the journey to return home was begun. The elderly stayed at the camps as long as they could, fearing what they would find once back at their homes. Most were assisted by the W.R.A. with housing and employment on their return, however housing for all minority groups was largely unavailable. Many Japanese homes had been taken, vandalized, removed or burned. During that time of reentry, private homes, churches and storage buildings, and old rooming houses were made available for the returning evacuees. There were more than fifty such hostels on the West Coast, most of them operated by private groups. Finding employment was easy as so much work needed to be done.
Postwar Herbert’s Goats, or Uncle Goat:
The war was over but not for Nicholson. This was perhaps chapter two for Herbert. Japanese Island territories were devastated by the war and food was very scarce, especially milk for children. Herbert would become Yagi no Ojiison (Grandfather Goat) to the children of Japan and Okinawa. Many of these islanders were familiar with goat meat but not the milk. In 1947 Nicholson, with the Licensed Agencies for the Relief in Asia (LARA) introduced about 200 goats to Okinawa as a source of milk for children. Herbert Nicholson, Quaker missionary’s principle contribution to postwar japan was this delivery of goats to farmers who had lost their means of livelihood in the destruction of war. “Far Outliers” Internet site.
Over the following years another 2,615 goats were sent to produce milk. Herbert and his goats were featured in a story book for the fifth grade reader in Japan and he was known as “Uncle Goat.” The story is about a young boy named Harry whose father was killed in the war who gives his goat to the children of the father who killed his father. By 1950 three boat loads (over 5,000) goats had been shipped.17. Nicholson was then known as Yagi no Ojisa (Uncle Goat).
In 1950, the Nicholsons were joyfully able to return to Japan to live and to establish a branch of the Worldwide Evangelism crusade of Gokanosho region.
By now, daughter Virginia was in Ramabai Mukti Mission in India, son Donald had returned to Japan to help his parents, and Samuel was in college. In 1961 Madeline and Herbert would return to Pasadena* where, in 1962, Herbert was acting as minister again.
Herbert and Madeline Nicholson’s stories about the evacuation of Japanese, Italian and Germans from their homes for no apparent reason are a valuable part of history to learn from. After speaking with his Japanese friends, Nicholson encountered situations that seemed entirely out of sync with “potentially dangerous” people. He talked to wives and children of the men taken and followed them up with alliance to Friends Service Committee at Imperial valley with the Quaker missionaries, to Yuma, to San Diego then up the coast to Los Angeles, stopping at Japanese centers and churches.
Herbert Victor Nicholson suffered two bouts of cancer and two surgeries, but went on immediately with the campaign for redress by publicly announcing that the reparations should be in the millions of dollars.
During their lifetime of ministry Herbert and Madeline, with their children aided many, many people and institutions. At his memorial service, as noted by Vera Danielson in the Star-
News, 1983 “A memorial service has been held for Herbert V. Nicholson, a man America’s Japanese looked to for joy, hope and love from the day they were interned at war relocation centers during the chaotic and turbulent years of WWII until their release and reentry back into U.S. society”
And too, at the memorial service George Hirashiki gave a testimony saying that Herbert always greeted people with great sincerity and friendliness. His Bible messages became alive and with real meaning. He lived very modestly and loved everyone.
United States Constitution, Article V of the U.S. Bill of Rights:
“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor private property, without due process of law, nor private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
Article XIII of the U.S Bill of Rights:
Neither slavery nor involuntary solitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Report of Irene Hirashiki Interview August, 2015:
Irene knew Herbert Nicholson and his wife at Hillcrest during and after WWII. Hillcrest was in La Crescenta, CA when Irene was there. Those at Hillcrest were too ill with tuberculosis and other diseases to go to a camp so they were housed in the sanatarium under guard with one guard at the bottom of the driveway.
Madeline Nicholson, Irene knew, was a missionary who served as a visiting nurse at Hillcrest and Herbert was the minister there. Madeline learned to drive so that she could do errands for the patients. The two became friends.
Irene was born in Inglewood, CA to a father who was a gardener in Beverly Hills before the war, her mother a teacher. While she was growing up in the eastern U.S., the citizens didn’t know what her parents country was and what she may be. They didn’t know Japanese people in the east. Irene’s father passed when she was eight or nine and the family went to Japan where she studied English for a semester. She was sixteen when they returned to West Los Angeles where she lived with a German family for two years, with room and board while she went to Beverly Hills High School then later to West Los Angeles University and worshiped at the Buddhist temple there. At that time she was not a Christian and didn’t know the Nicholsons. It was after the war that she knew them well. After 1940, when she was 16, she got tuberculosis and lived Hillcrest.
Her husband, George Hirashiki knew Herbert well and it was he who gave a memorial at the funeral of Nicholson.
Notes from Visit With Son, Samuel Nicholson:
Samuel spoke about Terminal Island in 1940 where his father went three times to that area where there was a thriving fishing industry run by Japanese people. The government felt that, since there was a Federal prison on Terminal Island, a Navy Yard and a large Japanese community that the Japanese must be removed. Samuel helped his father at that time to remove loads of furniture and possessions for storage lest they be lost He was given a diesel truck which he put thousands of miles on.
The two men took loads of books and necessities to Manzanar as well. On the last trip to Manzanar, at Christmas time, there were riots and the camp was on lock down. He said that part of the problem was the Chinese cooks and the general morale at the time. Herbert and Samuel collected and delivered 4,000 or 5,000 Christmas gifts donated by the church people to the great number of people there.
On his last trip east Samuel’s father, Herbert, visited the 442nd Regimental Combat Team on his way to see Assistant secretary of War, John McCloy, to have the Japanese concentration camps closed down. McCloy said he would make his decision by the mail he received from the west coast. If the majority of mail wanted them released, they would be released. After calls to California and a mass mailing to Mc Cloy, the people were released.
At one time Samuel worked at the Hillcrest Sanatarium with his parents who were acting as house parents at the time. He said that at the time of evacuation those with active tuberculosis were held there, with the thought that the hot dusty air would damage them even more. Hillcrest housed 150 beds.
Samuel also confirmed that, since the Nicholson family was the largest in the Japanese mission, they were dropped from the mission there. The mission was closing down. They got a job in Kobe in a Canadian school and became house parents in a boy’s dorm. The children went ahead to America on a freighter. When back in the U.S.A. Herbert took a job as assistant minister in a small Methodist church in Pasadena.
Samuel is the only family member left of the three children .
At a gathering in 2009, at the 100th anniversary of the American Society of Southern California, Senator Ridley Thomas, Supervisor Knabe and Supervisor Antonovich, a cerificate of appreciation was given to Herbert Nicholson citing praise for all Japanese entrepreneurs, Japanese companies, and Japanese talented people and their leadership in the American community.
The SCA organization stressed the need for strengthening the economic, cultural and governmental relationships between the United States and Japan.
Audrie Girdner and Anne Loftis, in their book The Great Betrayal, chapter 16, detail the confusion in the country after the return of the Japanese to their homes.
The campaign for Redress was launched by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in 1978. In the Redress Movement there was a “Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians” chartered by Congress. When in Los Angeles Nicholson testified and the testimony was recorded.
1988 was the year that the American government made a public apology saying, “a grave injustice was done” and HR442 was signed by Ronald Reagan in which each surviving former internee receiving $20,000 in repayment for lost wages, homes and lives, a total payment of $1.6 billion dollars. The words: “A grave injustice was done”.
In October, 1990 the first redress payment was given at the Japanese National Museum to Reverend Mamoru Eto of Los Angeles, a man of 107 years.
1992 the Civil Liberties Act amendments awarded $400 million more.
At the end of his book, published 1978, Herbert Nicholson writes: “In closing, I wish to say how wonderstruck I am at the way the Issei and Nisei took their loss of liberty, their terrible loss of property and have risen, like the legendary phoenix, from their once-shattered lives to resume again their life pursuits with pride and dignity. They have made me feel proud; for they had every right to be bitter, to rebel as a small segment did in the camps; but a great many believed under the circumstances that it was one way of helping the war effort by patriotically helping the government…
Japanese Americans have shown us, by their loyalty and remarkable wartime sacrifices that we, as a people and nation, must place more emphasis on strengthening our spiritual and moral fiber so that our failure to prevent such things as concentration camps to confine whole groups of innocent people will never again be repeated.”
*Comfort All Who Mourn, Togo Tanaka, p.viii
* see Wikipedia: Russo-Japanese War/Anglo-Japanese intelligence cooperation
*These memoirs are found in Valiant Odyssey, edited by Michi Weglyn and Betty E. Mistson. *The story of Herbert and Madeline Nicholson is found in Comfort All Who Mourn by Herbert V. Nicholson and Margaret Wilke.
*The Great Betrayal by Audrie Girdner and Anne Loftis
*Valiant Odyssey by Herbert Nicholson
*Comfort All Who Would Mourn by Herbert Nicholson and Margaret Wilke
*Treasure In Earthen Vessels by Herbert Nicholson
*See http:encyclopedia.densho.org/Herbert_Nicholson for a more detailed article by Nancy Matsumoto. Also Valiant Odyssey, Edited by Michi Weglyn and Betty E. Mitson.
*Diary of Kenji Nakane
*Togo W. Tamaka, (Japanese American Oral History Project, 1973)
*Phone Interview with Samuel Nicholson – Herbert’s oldest son
*Phone interview with Irene Hirashiki
*War Department Document(FBI), August 24, 1943 (because of article in Des Moines Register-Tribube)
*“A Tale of Tomodachi” by Naomi Hirara (Vroman’s Boook Store WWII)
*Frank Toshinori Yamauchi Diary (Nicholson called families when members showed up at TCDS)
* manymountains.org; Under the Moon
* Wikipedia,densho.org/ Herbert Nicholson
* Far Outliers Internet Site
* Kirby Page “Empty the Relocation Centers” The Christian Century pp. 715-716, June, 1943
1. Comfort All Who Mourn, Herbert V. Nicholson and Margaret Wilke, 1982; Togo Tanaka, p.viii
2. Samuel Nicholson(eldest sone) in a telephone interview August 8, 2015
3. Densho Encyclopedia. See http.encyclopedia.dencho.org/Herbert_Nicholson for a more
detailed article by Nancy Matsumoto
4. Comfort All who Mourn, p.78
5. FBI report
6. Valiant Odyssey, Herbert Nicholson, ed by Michi Weglyn and Betty E. Mitson, 1978, p.17
7. Densho Encyclopedia