Katsugo Miho
522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT

Life After the War

In 1958, Katsugo represents crews of the Golden Rule and Phoenix of Hiroshima who attempt to disrupt nuclear testing in the Pacific.

He and Katsuro also represent nisei in Japan who wish to regain their U.S. passports to re-enter the country. Through their efforts and the efforts of attorney Al Wirin, thousands return.

Married since 1956, Katsugo and Laura Miho raise four children.

In the 1970s, Katsugo serves as family court judge.

Fong, Miho and Choy

My brother [Katsuro's] firm had an opening so I joined them with Hiram Fong and Herbert Choy. It was Fong, Miho, and Choy at that point. Later on, Mr. Walter Chuck became a partner.

Fong, Miho, Choy, and Robinson, number one of the big clients was Hiram’s conglomerate of Finance Factors, Finance Investment, we represented them. We also represented Foodland chain and general practice of law, wide open. At one point, the biggest civil judgment in Hawaii was by Walter Chuck, who came onboard at that time.

The Golden Rule Case

In my career, I was involved in two glamorous cases. The first one was the Golden Rule case.

There was a book [Voyage of the Golden Rule by Albert Bigelow] on that. Well, this was at the time when atom bomb experiment was being done. [In 1958, when] these atom bomb tests were being taken, suddenly, into Honolulu sailed a small little ship with five members [Albert Bigelow, James Peck, George Willoughby, William R. Huntington, and Orion W. Sherwood]. They were all Quakers.

They had come in and announced that [in protest against nuclear weapons] they were going to sail out to Eniwetok [to disrupt a nuclear test]. Sail into the forbidden zone. [The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had banned entry to the test site.] So, there was a big publicity, it came out in the newspapers, and even announced when they were going to sail out. Having announced their intentions, the federal attorney general sought an injunction to prevent them from going out into Eniwetok.

So we got involved with the Quakers. Judge [Jon] Wiig, federal judge, had a short hearing when we represented the Quakers, the Golden Rulers. The judge issued an injunction to the Golden Rule crew that you are not to sail out of Ala Wai Harbor.

As soon as the court hearing was over — and we didn’t know this was the plan of the crew — we said goodbye and they walked out of the courtroom, went straight to Ala Wai Harbor, got onboard the ship, and the coast guard was waiting for them, they were watching them.

Sure enough, they got on the boat, they sailed out, and they were out five or ten miles out of the harbor when the coast guard intercepted them, brought them back into port, and there was a hearing at that point as to having violated the injunction. At that point, my brother and I reappeared in court.

Five of them were brought in shackles in the court and a hearing was [held] on what penalty they would get for violating the injunction. Judge Wiig ordered them to be put in jail for x number of days, thirty days or sixty days. We thought that was it.

But before my brother and I could walk out, the judge said, “Wait, the two of you, I want you to stay back, we got a little more.” The Golden Rulers were taken out of court, and my brother and I were back there. The judge wanted to know why he should not hold my brother and I in contempt of court for allowing or not doing anything about the Golden Rulers violating his injunction. What he wanted to know was whether we knew in advance whether they were going to go out. His questioning was, if we knew in advance, why didn’t we report it to him or to the court authorities that our clients were intentionally going to violate. Well, in the first place, we didn’t know anything. [The judge] thought about it and then he decided not to hold my brother and I in contempt of court.

[The Golden Rulers] stayed in prison for thirty days at Iwilei. I remember going to visit them in the jail. But eventually, they got out and went back home. I think they decided not to do anything further. After the jail time, they went back. I guess they got enough [news coverage] — and this was national news. The Golden Rule was a big item in the Life magazine.

My sister, Fumiye, she was head of the Quaker mission in Japan, and through her contact, we had been in touch with several matters involving the Quakers. I think they knew about my brother and I. But because of her, we got involved [with the case].

Being ex-military, at that point, I did not have any strong feeling one way or the other [about atomic testing in the Pacific], other than going along with the rest of the majority of the public that what needed to be done as announced by the government was something that we had to do. If there was further need for testing.

The Phoenix

An interesting additional aspect of this is that at the time of the hearing, unbeknown at that point, was a man listening to all what was going on. Dr. Earle Reynolds is also a well-known name. He and his family was harbored in Ala Wai Harbor, with the name of his ship being Phoenix [of Hiroshima].

After the hearing, Dr. Reynolds and his family got on the Phoenix. The navy had stopped the Phoenix from entering into the forbidden zone. [In June 1958] they had sailed all the way from Hawaii to the forbidden zone. The navy stopped it and hauled the ship back to Honolulu.

So we had a hearing [on] what would happen. Dr. Reynolds called me because he had seen my brother and I both. He was smart, he said, “I want you to represent me temporarily,” until he can get his regular attorney from Washington, D.C. to represent him in this hearing in Honolulu. I specifically tried to impress upon the judge that I was there for a very specific purpose, only to buy time to have a continuance of the case against Dr. Reynolds, until his attorney, famous civil rights attorney from Washington, D.C., would be coming to defend him. But the judge refused the continuance. He set it for hearing before the attorney could get here. And Dr. Reynolds did go to jail.

[The] judge was overruled because my purpose was to get time to have his appointed attorney, to come from Washington, D.C., which was for a reasonable time. Dr. Reynolds [was found] guilty of entering the forbidden zone, which was then overruled again by the Ninth Circuit Court. So that was the Phoenix [case in] which Dr. Reynolds and his family became well-known pacifists, and finally ended up going to Hiroshima. I think he was a professor. The wife was a well-known educator. I know they spent several years in Hiroshima, involved with all this peace movement.

AJA Passport Cases

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My brother [Katsuro] was involved with the very early cases of the AJAs wanting to come back after World War II. They were denied their passports because the state department ruled that they had voluntarily either served in the Japanese army or voluntarily voted in the Japanese election.

The state department had made a standing rule that all former dual citizens who were in Japan during the war were denied their rights to get back their passports. We were involved with that suit.

There were some six thousand AJAs who wanted to come back. And so we had a test case in Honolulu. Fujii Junichi’s son. We represented him and we had a famous civil [liberties] lawyer from Los Angeles, [Abraham Lincoln] “Al” Wirin, and his law firm, and we jointly represented these six thousand. We had a test case and Judge [J. Frank] McLaughlin first upheld the state department ruling that the government was correct in denying these AJAs their passports. But on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit overruled it.

As a result, the state department was forced to issue out to all of those AJAs who have been in Japan, the right to come back and get their passport and come back.

As far as we know, there was an estimated over six thousand niseis who were, not stranded, but wanted to get back their passports. Not everybody did come back. There’s a lot of families who just prefer to stay back in Japan. But those who wanted to come back were automatically denied their passport by the ruling of the [U.S.] state department, which the federal courts overruled. You have to give them, if asked, they were entitled because the Ninth Circuit ruled that service in the Japanese army was not voluntary.

Thereby, those niseis who were in Japan were forced to serve in the military of Japan. Not because they volunteered, but it was involuntary servitude in the military. And that voting in the first election [in Occupied Japan] after the war was not a voluntary thing again. Because at that time, the restrictions were if you did not vote, I think you were not entitled to get rations, food rations or whatnot. Something like that, tied in with some very strict [requirements], issued by General [Douglas] MacArthur. So during this period of time, the voting was tied in with ability to survive. If you didn’t go out and vote, you weren’t entitled to rations and whatnot. The two big items of serving in the military and voting, were ruled involuntary. As a result, their stay in Japan was not a voluntary choice.

Under the ruling of the Ninth Circuit, all what the AJAs had to do was to just go to the American consulate and ask for their passports, and they were entitled to get their passport back again, or entitled to get the right to return back. And so, supposedly, over six thousand AJAs were able to do that. Until then, they were not able to come back.

[This was in the] early 1950s. That was a big case.

It had headlines in the newspapers, these cases. We all agreed with the ruling, at that time, that, basically, these people were entitled to come back. I really don’t know the numbers of those who served in the Japanese army, who chose to come back again.

Postwar Brides

I ended up doing a lot of domestic relations cases. After the war and during occupation, the whole bunch of American GIs got married to Japanese girls and decided to bring them back to Hawaii. In many cases, it didn’t work out, unfortunately. The cultural differences were too great an obstacle. Within five or six years, about 1950 thereon, a bulk of these GIs started to return and bring back the wives with them.

Around 1955 or 1956, five or six years after they came back over here, domestic problems became a big issue in Hawaii, of these interracial marriages. Only a few of our law firms at that point had Japanese-speaking lawyers. My brother was one and I could converse enough to get involved. So I ended up doing a lot of the domestic relations cases because of the fact that there were not too many other attorneys in town who could handle the cases.

So this is part of the reason why I was enticed to become a family court referee by Judge Herman Lum.

District Family Court Judge

After I got through with my political time, eleven years [1959-1970] in the house [State of Hawaii House of Representatives], at that time, there was no family court system. Divorce matters were handled by referees. And the referees, their findings and rulings were always subject to review by a circuit court judge. The pay was so low that nobody wanted to become a referee in the family court system at that point.

Herman Lum was a good friend of mine. We had a poker gang. Judge Lum was one of ’em, our members. So he knew me quite well, and then he knew what kind of practice I had, and he was the chief justice at that time. He pointed out to me that I was getting x number of dollars for my retirement fund, which I would qualify for after I reached age fifty. It was based on the high three [yearly salaries], the high three for the state legislator. Anyway, it was a very nominal amount. But he said, “Look, if you serve three years as a referee, at the salary of” — I forgot what it was, nine thousand or ten thousand — “and your high three, in just three years, would triple. If after three years serving as a referee, you want to get out, you get out. But your retirement pay for that short three years would triple.”

At the end of three years [1971–1973], they made it into a district [judge]. They formed the family court system. The family district court judge received a substantial pay increase from the referee. At that point, it was a six-year term, I think. So Judge Lum says, “Well, no sense you getting out in three years because if you now serve six more years, your retirement income will be that much more different.” Based on the higher three. So I got enticed into staying six more years [1973 – 1979] as a district family court judge.

[My cases were] strictly domestic; matrimonial, adoptions and juvenile cases were a family court matter. Juvenile — all matters relating juveniles, then the marital domestic relations cases, and adoptions, were the three areas of family court jurisdiction.

Family

My wife is Laura Masuko, she is a former Iida. Her family ran Iida Shoten, or Iida Store, ceramic store for over a hundred years and, unfortunately, recently closed down.

Wedding photo of Katsugo and Laura Miho. Honolulu, Hawaii. 1956.
Wedding photo of Katsugo and Laura Miho. Honolulu, Hawaii. 1956.

I have four children. I have an eldest daughter named Carolyn Mariko Miho, and Arthur Kengo Miho, and Celia Yukiko Fujikami, and Ann Takako Johnson.

Katsugo Miho Family. Late 1970s.
Katsugo Miho Family. Late 1970s.

Interestingly, Celia is known as Kiko, but her name was named after a very good friend of mine, Celia Molina, who was a Filipina that my brother and I both knew in Washington, D.C. Beautiful Filipina lady, and Kiko was named after her.

I have six grandchildren now, and one more on the way. Arthur has two girls, sixteen and twelve; Kiko has an eight-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter; and Ann has a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old boy, and one more coming on the way in May.

Katsugo Miho's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Katsugo Miho.

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