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The Hawaii National Guard was charged with the defense of the Hawaiian Islands. It consisted of the 298th Regiment, made up of Oahu residents, and the 299th Regiment made up of residents of the other islands. There were some volunteers in the guard but most were draftees. In 1940 all young men who had reached draft age were given selective service numbers. In November, just a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first number chosen in the selective service drawing belonged to a Japanese American.

There must have been many men in the unit who could have qualified. It was only after the troops reached Camp McCoy that they were able to let their families know that they had gone to the mainland. After that all their letters were censored. The soldiers never spoke anything but pidgin among themselves, but their letters were written in good grammatical standard English. That came as a surprise to the Caucasian officers in charge of censorship. The local bookstore did a booming business with the Japanese American soldiers.

One of the few townspeople to befriend the Japanese Americans was Nellie Kiefer, then a widow in her mid-fifties. One day her son John had brought home a lonesome-looking Japanese American soldier he had met in town-Private Kazuo Mito, who later died in Europe. From then on the hefty "Ma" got to know the Japanese American soldiers very well. "I never cooked so much rice and fish in my life;' she later reininisced. 1 Some citizens of La Crosse cut off Nellie and her son for taking the Japanese Americans into her house.

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