Buddy Uno


Name Kazumaro "Buddy" Uno
Born 1913
Died December 10 1954
Birth Location Oakland, CA
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Nisei journalist in Los Angeles and Shanghai who worked for the Japanese government during World War II. A well known writer in the prewar Japanese American community, Kazumaro "Buddy" Uno (1913–54) journeyed to Asia to cover the Pacific War and ended up working for the Japanese government during World War II.

Buddy Uno was born in Oakland in 1913, the eldest of ten children of George Kumemaro Uno and Riki (Kita) Uno. His father grew up in an American missionary boarding school, had been raised as a Christian, and spoke some English. He came to the U.S. in 1905 and married in 1912. In 1916, the family moved to Salt Lake City, where George worked as a florist for the Mormon church. Buddy spent several early childhood years in Japan living with an uncle, returning in 1920 and attending elementary school in Salt Lake City. In 1926, the family—now with seven children—moved to Los Angeles. The Uno household was a Christian one—they were members of the Union Church—that spoke English at home; Buddy and his siblings also did not go to Japanese language school like most of their Nisei peers. Buddy attended Stevenson Junior High School and Jefferson and Compton High Schools, graduating from the latter in 1932.

While still in high school he began to write for the Rafu Shimpo newspaper, first with a column titled "Echoes From the Tartar Campus." He wrote a series of columns subsequently, the most famous of which was titled "A Nisei Melodrama." Running from 1934 to 1937, the column ran weekly in the Rafu and several other papers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. He also became an active member of the San Francisco Japanese American Citizens League starting in 1935.

In 1937, he made the first of his trips to China with the aim of becoming a war correspondent covering the war between Japan and China. Assisted by an uncle in Japan, he was able to get access to the front and published accounts of the war in the English language Japanese American press and also returned to the U.S. to give lectures about the situation in China that promoted the Japanese side of the conflict. Like many older Nisei leaders, he embraced the bridge of understanding concept, "that the Nisei had a special mission as American citizens to act as go-betweens between Japan and America."[1] He encouraged Nisei to go to Japan to improve their understanding of Japanese history and culture and to learn the language, even though his own Japanese language ability was poor.

In June of 1939, he returned to Japan, and he began working for the Press Bureau of the Japanese Army as a journalist in Shanghai in January 1940. In 1940, he was conscripted into the Japanese Army; even though he was discharged after just a day, he lost his American citizenship as a result. According to Yuji Ichioka, he began to shift his loyalties more in favor of Japan at that point. In swift succession, he became the editor of the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, a daily newspaper, and the newsmagazines Asiana and Freedom, patterned after Time and LIFE magazines, respectively. According to Ichioka, “In editorial after editorial, he boasted of the superiority, and hence invincibility, of the Japanese Army and Navy, and he revelled in the sweeping Japanese military victories of 1941–42."[2]

In April 1943, he moved from Shanghai to Tokyo, where he supervised Allied POWs at the Bunka Camp in Tokyo for use in radio propaganda programs. From there, he was transferred to Manila in October 1944. In May 1945, he was captured by Filipino guerrillas, on the verge of starvation and weighing just 100 pounds. He was turned over to American military authorities and imprisoned with other Japanese POWs. While in captivity at New Bilibid Prison, he was visited by Nisei acquaintances serving in the Military Intelligence Service, one of whom was his brother Howard.

While he was in China and Japan, his family was incarcerated in American concentration camps, with his father being arrested on December 7. Three of his brothers served in the U.S. during the war. His youngest brother, Edison Uno, became a leader of the postwar Japanese American community and one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of reparations.

Buddy was eventually released from prison and lived out the rest of his life in Japan, having married a Japanese woman in 1941 with whom he had three children. Weakened by the malaria and tuberculosis he had contracted at the end of the war, he died on December 10, 1954, in Kobe.

For More Information

Hayashi, Brian Masaru. 'For the Sake of Our Japanese Brethren': Assimilation, Nationalism, and Protestantism among the Japanese of Los Angeles, 1895-1942. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Ichioka, Yuji. "The Meaning of Loyalty: The Case of Kazumaro Buddy Uno." Amerasia Journal 23.3 (Winter 1997): 44-71.

Ishii, Amy Uno. Interviewed by Betty Mitson and Kristen Mitchell on July 9, 1973 and July 20, 1973. In Japanese American World War II Evacuation Oral History Project, Part I: Internees, ed. Arthur A. Hansen. Munich: K.G. Saur, 1994. 39-87. http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft18700334/?query=amy%20uno%20ishii&brand=calisphere.

Footnotes

  1. Yuji Ichioka, "The Meaning of Loyalty: The Case of Kazumaro Buddy Uno," Amerasia Journal 23.3 (winter 1997), 54.
  2. Ichioka, "The Meaning of Loyalty," 58.