Military censorship not uniform through history
By Namrata Savoor
ARLINGTON, Va. The American press today is freer to cover wars and conflicts, and television has brought the public even closer to the war zones, said Bill Hosokawa, former editor and reporter for The Denver Post, at an Inside Media program May 27 at the Newseum.
During World War I and World War II, Hosokawa said, the military routinely censored journalists' account of the wars, but that practice changed during the Korean War. Although "there were briefings in which military officers tried to sell what might be called the company line … we were completely free to write whatever we pleased," he said.
While covering the Korean War, Hosokawa said, he spent most of his time with the troops on the field writing stories about their war experiences.
He said the American military in Korea was very cooperative and even gave him helicopter rides to get to the field. "What I did after I got there was my business so long as I didn't get shot," he said.
Hosokawa said the military didn't pressure him to write positive stories about them in exchange for these favors. "I felt no particular obligation to present their point of view," he said.
Over the years television has transformed war reporting as live images from the front are transmitted in real time to people back home, Hosokawa said.
"That's much more vivid reporting than something I would write on a typewriter after I got back to my base," Hosokawa said.
The discussion, moderated by Gene Mater of The Freedom Forum, was in connection with the Newseum's War Stories exhibit, which runs through Nov. 11.
As a Japanese-American, Hosokawa said, he found it a great challenge to break into the journalism field. Recollecting his college days as a journalism student in the late 1930s, Hosokawa said his adviser warned him that no American newspaper would hire a "Japanese boy."
"I knew that there was a certain prejudice," Hosokawa said, "but I said I'll take my chances and I went on and studied journalism."
Unable to find a job in the United States, Hosokawa said he worked overseas in newspapers and magazines in Singapore and Shanghai before returning to the United States.
Shortly thereafter, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. Army carried out a presidential order that all people of ethnic Japanese origin, regardless of citizenship, be placed in what were called resettlement camps, Hosokawa said. "It was a concentration camp but they didn't call it that," he said.
The camps were out in the desert and were surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers, he said. Each family lived in a cubicle within a barracks, which didn't have basic amenities such as running water, he said. Although they had schools for the kids, churches and recreational programs to keep them occupied, Hosokawa said "the worst part of it was the feeling that our country had abandoned us."
Since then Congress has apologized for infringing Japanese-Americans' constitutional rights, Hosokawa said, "but I'm afraid that there is always a possibility in some future crisis that we will forget these things and commit such atrocities … against certain minorities."
War Stories events coverage
Coverage of discussions relating to Newseum's War Stories exhibit.