the reason that this line is significant is because jim morita was a japanese-american soldier. while it’s never explicitly stated, here’s what morita’s life would have been like before being captured by HYDRA:
december 7, 1942: the empire of japan attacked pearl harbor. he was probably a soldier at this time since he was considered to be elite enough for steve’s squad; unknown where he served, although there were many japanese-american soldiers who died in and who were the first responders to the attack.
december 8, 1942: the us declares a state of war with japan.
all japanese-american men disqualified from the draft via the label “4-C,” or “enemy alien,” no matter their citizenry. all japanese-american men in the service are removed from duty.
february 19, 1942: president roosevelt signed executive order 9066, authorizing the military to exclude certain groups from military zones.
the fbi searched the homes of japanese-americans for “contraband,” including correspondence with anyone in japan such as personal letters. any such contraband is confiscated.
(fun sidenote: how did they know where to find these people so that they could be harassed? well, gosh, the census bureau told them. illegally. no big deal.)
community leaders, including priests, gathered up and sent to prison camps like tule lake. this is also where several families were sent to be deported to japan since they were not deemed loyal enough.
122,000 people of japanese-american descent are told to sell or store their property as they can only bring what they can carry out of the “exclusion zones,” which meant most of the west coast. (hawaii, whose population was about a quarter japanese, was for the most part not included in this.) given only a few weeks to organize their lives, they were then sent via cattle train to concentration camps set up throughout the us.
since morita was from fresno, he would have ended up here:
sunny poston, arizona. conveniently built on an indian reservation against the wishes of the tribal council, who wanted nothing to do with the government’s white supremacist bullshit. why only infringe on the rights and wishes of one minority group, right?
choice quote: ”After fifteen months at Arizona’s vast Poston Relocation Center as a social analyst, Commander Leighton concluded that many an American simply fails to remember that U.S. Japanese are human beings.”
shortly after arriving, all prisoners were asked to fill out a survey. most of the questions would be simple, like their name, city of birth, etc, but questions 27 and 28 were different.
question 27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?
question 28: Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attacks by foreign and domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or disobedience to the Japanese Emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?
did you answer yes to both? congratulations! you’re a soldier. did you answer no to both? perhaps you’re too old or sick to serve? perhaps the general fuckery of this entire situation got you down? perhaps you were born outside of the us, so you can’t disavow your country of origin since there is a very real chance you’ll be deported? haha well congratulations hope you like prison and/or deportation
so all of this goes on
and then morita goes on to serve
and get captured
and dumbass doogan says, “what, are we taking everybody?”
i’m from fresno
IMPORTANT SO IMPORTANT.
I don’t know if Morita is canonically from the 442nd Infantry Regiment or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was (although I’m not sure if the dates match up); the 442nd was an almost entirely Japanese-American infantry regiment that was the most decorated American unit in ALL OF AMERICAN HISTORY because the members had so much to prove. And they did this all while their families were in interment camps back in the States. They served in the European theatre of war because the American government was afraid to send Japanese-American soldiers to the Pacific theatre because the U.S. government was full of racist jackasses during WWII.
This is my favorite line from the movie. (Possibly because of all the times I’ve been asked “Where are you from?” and answered “California”.)
I first heard of the 442nd Regiment from my dad, and I still get deeply, dorkishly excited every time I see them mentioned. Their motto was “Go for Broke”, and they were nicknamed the Purple Heart Battalion because of their record-setting medal count. A choice bit from wikipedia (emphasis mine):
“On 12 November, General Dahlquist ordered the entire 442nd to stand in formation for a ceremony, and seeing K company’s 18 men and I company’s eight, demanded of Colonel Miller, “I want all your men to stand for this formation.” Miller responded, “That’s all of K company left, sir” (of 400, originally)."
So where is THAT movie?
Yeah, the dates for Morita to be part of the 442nd don’t match up, and they don’t match up for the 100th Infantry Battalion, either, which was the other primarily US-born Nisei unit active in the European theater and had an even more dramatic formation history than the 442nd. Alternatively, the promo film that you see with Cap has, IIRC, a bit where he pretend-walks off to war with a black soldier behind him with a gun, so maybe we can make a case that in MCU, Executive Order 9981 was pre-WWII?