Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga Papers
Scope and Contents
The Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga Papers (1900-2018, bulk 1980-2018) includes approximately 60 archival boxes of correspondence, media, photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, memorabilia and ephemera related to Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga’s (Aiko) life and work. The collection reflects Aiko’s meticulous attention to detail and organizational and research skills she developed through her secretarial and office clerical experience.
The first three series document Aiko’s work in editing, transcribing, and publishing testimonies from hearings held in July 1981 by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) on the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. These series include her research, notes, drafts, working papers, and edits while working for: the CWRIC as a researcher; the Japanese Historical Papers Project as project director to edit and annotate the transcripts; the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund to transcribe the hearings; and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to publish her work in Speaking Out for Personal Justice: Site Summaries of Testimonies and Witnesses Registry from the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilans (CWRIC) Hearings, 1981. The collection also includes copies of individual testimonies submitted to the CWRIC by witnesses.
The fourth series in the collection contains subject files primarily related to Aiko’s work as a civil rights activist, the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans and related topics and issues. It includes several copies and versions of the Lim Report and related correspondence, notes, and other documents. This report was commissioned by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in 1989 to investigate its wartime activities. While initially suppressed by the JACL, Aiko and others fought to have the report widely publicized. Additionally, this series includes information about the Jack and Aiko Herzig Papers at UCLA, to which the Herzig’s donated their research materials in 2003. This subseries contains correspondence, shipping receipts, inaugural reception information, and other documents related to the UCLA collection. Other subject content in this series include Michi Weglyn, Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, Japanese Latin Americans, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR), Nikkei and Nikkei issues, among others. The next subseries includes publications and manuscripts comprised of essays, dissertations, periodicals, and books related to Japanese Americans and Japanese American incarceration. It includes a copy of Mako Nakagawa’s 2007 Camp Child, “Executive Order 9066 aka The Aiko Yoshinaga Story” written in 1990 by Philip Kan Gotanda, Japanese American Voice (JAVoice) articles, a copy of a Santa Fe Camp directory, and others. The final subseries includes documentaries, films, and promotional media largely related to the World War II Japanese American incarceration and Japanese American soldiers.
The fifth series in the collection includes Aiko and Jack Herzig’s personal files, correspondence, news clippings, photographs, awards and certificates, and media related primarily to their life.
The majority of correspondence is in email format, with some typed or handwritten. The files are generally about the subject and/or Aiko’s correspondence with or relating to the subject. Aiko’s orbit of correspondents was diverse, extending across the nation and abroad. Of note, correspondence topics include: efforts made to obtain a retraction and apology from author Michelle Malkin for a passage in her book, In Defense of Internment; Cedrick Shimo and efforts to hold an event at the Japanese American National Museum featuring Robert Stinnett and his Pearl Harbor bookDay of Deceit; Janice Tanaka and the making of the documentary of Aiko’s life, Rebel With a Cause; Lt. Ehren Watada and the movement in support of his refusal to deploy to Iraq on grounds that it was illegal to do so; writers and authors Phil Tajitsu Nash and Greg Robinson; artist Bill Bossert; Harry Ueno and his handwritten letters to Aiko; among others. There are also informal notes that Aiko wrote to herself, such as telephone conversations, tasks, reminders, and thoughts, that are predominately handwritten on random pieces of paper.
This series also includes photographs during pre-World War II of the Yoshinaga family in Japan and the United States, as well as wartime photos in the Jerome and Rowher incarceration camps. Post-war photos include Aiko’s life in New York, Japan, and after her marriage to Jack Herzig when they resided in the Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles areas. Albums created by Aiko’s brother John Yoshinaga are also included in the collection.
Of note in this series are Aiko’s Los Angeles High School diploma and graduation cap she received in a special ceremony held in 1989. In 1942, Aiko’s graduation from high school was interrupted when the Yoshinaga family was incarcerated during World War II. Through the efforts of Warren Furutani, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education and Aiko’s son-in-law, she and her fellow Nisei (second generation Japanese American) classmates were presented with their 1942 diplomas at a special ceremony at Los Angeles High School.
This series also includes the many awards and certificates that Aiko received during her life and posthumously, as well as media (i.e., VHS, DVD, CD, Blu Ray, floppy disks, zip drives) of interviews with Aiko and Jack, music (both American and Japanese), and Aiko’s documents from her computer she fondly referred to as “Igor”. Aiko was also an avid recipe and stamp collector. The collection includes numerous stamps and recipes she collected over the years.
- circa 1900-December 1, 2018
- Majority of material found within 1980-2018
- Herzig, John A., 1922-2005 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Access is restricted to some material in the collection.
During processing, personal and health-related information was removed from the collection. If access copies could be created that concealed the confidential information, they were added back into the collection. Other material is closed and restricted according to HIPPA guidelines and the judgment of the archives staff. For more information about the restrictions in this collection, please call the Gerth Archives and Special Collections (310) 243-3895.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Biographical / Historical
During her life and posthumously, Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga (Aiko) was recognized and honored with numerous awards and accolades for speaking out and fighting for social justice. She is best known for uncovering the “smoking gun” evidence that led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, resulting in redress and reparations for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Her research findings were also pivotal in bringing forth writ of coram nobis petitions in three wartime cases against Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and Minoru Yasui, who were convicted of violating military orders under Executive Order 9066.
Aiko Yoshinaga, was born on August 5, 1924 in Sacramento, California. Her parents, Sanji Yoshinaga and Shigeru Kinuwaki, were immigrants from Japan. Aiko was the second to the youngest among six brothers and sisters: brother Nobukazu Frank and sisters Aya and Ei were born in Japan; brother Tsugio John and sister Amy were born in Sacramento. The family moved from Sacramento in 1933 to Downey briefly, and then to Los Angeles until 1942.
In Sacramento, Sanji Yoshinaga supported his family by managing hotels and running a small fruit and vegetable store. In 1933, when Aiko was 9 years of age, the family moved to Downey and stayed on her mother’s cousin’s farm for a few months until her father was able to find a home in “uptown” Los Angeles, a small community of Nikkei (Japanese American) families.
For the next 9 years, until Aiko was 17, the family settled in Los Angeles where she attended Hobart Elementary School, Berendo Junior High School, Poly High, and Los Angeles High School. At the latter, Aiko and her fellow Nisei (second generation Japanese American) students were a few weeks from graduating when their lives were interrupted by Executive Order 9066; Aiko would not receive her high school diploma until after the war.
In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which cleared the way for the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans within designated “military zones” located primarily along the West Coast. The Yoshinaga family, living in a designated military zone, was initially sent to live in the horse stables at Santa Anita Racetrack before being imprisoned in April 1942 at Jerome, one of ten American incarceration camps. For Aiko, shortly before incarceration, she married Jake Miyazaki and joined him and his family at Manzanar. There, she gave birth to her first child, Gerrie Lani Miyazaki. Upon hearing that her father was gravely ill, she and her daughter transferred to the Jerome incarceration camp, and later to the Rowher incarceration camp. Her father died while imprisoned in Jerome.
At war’s end in 1945, Aiko and Gerrie relocated to Denver, Colorado with Jake’s family. After their divorce, Aiko and Gerrie eventually moved to New York City where her widowed mother and siblings lived. In 1948, after attending night school in New York City, Aiko earned her high school diploma. She also met and married her husband Davis Abe, a US. Army officer who served in the postwar occupation in Japan. While in Kyoto, Japan, she had two more children, Lisa Jo Abe and David Louis Abe. After divorcing her second husband, Aiko relocated to New York and became the single parent of two daughters and a son. She found work in secretarial and office clerical positions, supporting her family while at the same time, developing meticulous organizational and research skills.
A turning point for Aiko came over dinner table talks with her teenage daughter Lisa during the 1960’s when they would discuss current events. In Aiko’s own words:
I found myself hard-pressed to satisfactorily explain to my daughter, let alone myself, the stark contradictions between what we had been taught about American values and American democracy versus the stark realities carried into our home by the news. I had naively accepted the dictum that we lived in a society based on the rule of law, but it was increasingly clear that laws were not synonymous with justice and fairness. It became clear to Aiko that she had suppressed and denied her own painful memories of her incarceration and injustice. She started to confront issues of racism, including her own personal experiences, and sought to educate herself and become involved in political change. In New York, she joined a group called the Asian Americans for Action (AAA) and participated in demonstrations about social, economic and political issues in the U.S. and abroad. At one point, Aiko found herself arrested along with President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy while demonstrating in front of the South African Embassy to protest that country’s apartheid policy. Aiko would also meet Michi Nishiura Weglyn, author of Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, who became a close friend and inspiration to Aiko in her pursuit against social injustice.
In 1978, Aiko married John “Jack” Herzig (Jack), a former U.S. Army Lieutenant colonel paratrooper. They moved to Washington, D.C. and Aiko began visiting the National Archives, initially to find documents relating to her family’s World War II incarceration. It was Weglyn who encouraged her to broaden her research to the various issues relating to the wartime exclusion history. Aiko found herself at the National Archives Monday through Saturday and spending 50 to 60 hours a week. After his retirement, Jack joined his wife as a research partner and together, they amassed about 8,000 documents from the War Relocation Authority and War Department records and other federal agencies. In 1980, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens (CWRIC) was created by the U.S. Congress to officially study the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. In 1981, Aiko was hired by the CWRIC as a researcher. Her documents and research proved invaluable to the study and was the core of the CWRIC’s 1983 final report, Personal Justice Denied, which led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, redress, and a formal apology by the U.S. government to Japanese Americans.
While conducting research at the National Archives for the CWRIC, Aiko along with her husband, uncovered the tenth copy of General John L. DeWitt’s final report. DeWitt’s report had documented the fact that J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Communications Commission, the Office of Naval Intelligence and other agencies categorically denied that Japanese Americans had committed any wrongdoing. DeWitt’s report was never presented to the U.S. Supreme Court during the original 1944 case of Korematsu v. United States. Instead, it was suppressed and all copies, but one were destroyed. With the discovery of the tenth missing copy, it was revealed that the U.S. government based its decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans on racist and unconstitutional arguments versus its long-standing position of military necessity. This discovery was also instrumental in laying the foundation for writ of coram nobis petitions for three wartime cases, resulting in decisions to vacate the wartime U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
In July 1981, the CWRIC held hearings to hear testimonies from more than 750 people relating to the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. After the CWRIC concluded its work, Aiko was hired by the Japanese American National Library in 1989 to edit and annotate the CWRIC transcripts prior to publication. Known as the Japanese American Historical Papers Project, Aiko worked on this project until 1996, when the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF) was created in response to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Aiko was hired by the CLPEF Board to transcribe the CWRIC hearings. In 1998, the CLPEF awarded the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with a grant to facilitate the publication of the transcripts produced by Aiko.
In 2003, the Herzig’s relocated to Gardena, California after 25 years in the Washington, D.C. area. Sadly, in 2005, Jack died of colon cancer after a period of illness.
In 2010, Aiko published Words Can Lie or Clarify: Terminology of the World War II Incarceration of Japanese Americans, which reflected her experience as a researcher for the CWRIC that caused her to realize the power and usage of words. In 2011, the UCLA project was completed with the publication of Speaking Out for Personal Justice: Site Summaries of Testimonies and Witnesses Registry from the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Hearings (CWRIC), 1981, edited by Aiko and Marjorie Lee, a librarian at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
In her later years, Aiko continued to be sought after by groups, organizations, colleagues, students and others for her expertise, advice and support. She would share any information she had with them, including clippings, documents and resources in her vast files. She was frequently asked to speak and participate on panels, the recipient of many honors and awards, and featured in documentaries, including Janice Tanaka’s biographical film, Rebel with a Cause. She also participated on planning and advisory boards for major projects including the California State University Japanese American Digitization Project. On a June 2013 curriculum vitae, she listed herself as a “Prisoner, U.S. War Relocation Authority concentration camps”. In her words, she had evolved “…from a once naïve housewife to a concerned citizen, and now political activist.” Up until her death in 2018 at the age of 94, Aiko continued in her role as a political activist, helping others in speaking out and fighting for social justice.
60 boxes : approximately
Language of Materials
This collection includes correspondence, media, publications, photographs, manuscripts, documents, and other materials related to Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga's life and work related to activism and social justice. Subjects in the collection include Redress and Reparations, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Japanese American incarceration, and Aiko's personal life. Some material has been digitized and is available online.
This collection is arranged in five series, with some series having multiple subseries:
- Series One:
- Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), 1942-2016
- Series Two:
- Japanese American Historical Papers Project, 1985-2003, undated
- Series Three:
- Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, 1981-2016
- Series Four:
- Subject Files, Publications and Manuscripts, and Media, 1942-2018
- Series Five:
- Personal Files, Correspondence, Photographs, Los Angeles High School, Media, Personal Files, and Other Subjects, 1942-2018
Availability of Digitized Materials
Some of the collection has been digitized and is available at the CSU Japanese American Digitization Project site.
Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga Papers.
The collection was processed by Eileen Yoshimura in 2019-2020.
Processing Information for Digitized Materials
The Gerth Archives and Special Collections created digital reproductions from the original material for long-term preservation and access. These preservation files were scanned to and stored on the Gerth Archives and Special Collections Department Drive. For more information on the best practices and standards for the digitization process, see: CSUJAD Techinal Reference Guide.
- Japanese American families
- Japanese American soldiers
- Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 -- Research
- Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1944-1945 -- Archives
- Jerome Incarceration Camp
- Manzanar War Relocation Center
- Reparations for historical injustices
- Rohwer Relocation Center (Ark.)
- Herzig, John A., 1922-2005 (Person)
- Inventory of Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga Papers
- Jennifer Hill. Scope and Content, Biography, and edits by Eileen Yoshimura.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the California State University Dominguez Hills, Gerth Archives and Special Collections Repository
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