For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1:18



There is no doubt that the greatest question regarding the evacuation and relocation was whether it was really a "military necessity." Was it military matters that motivated the decision-makers, or was it racial discrimination and war hysteria?

There was no doubt in the minds of most West Coast inhabitants, including those of Japanese ancestry, that something HAD to be done. For the Japanese to remain would have been risky from both a military and a social perspective. Many local officials and business leaders declared they did not want any Japanese living in their area. Even the Japanese American Citizens League requested so (see JACL letter here).

In light of top secret intelligence documents, there were immense concerns by US military leaders that the Japanese posed a great threat to stability on the West Coast. Large networks of Japanese organizations (which had been under surveillance by our intelligence bureaus for many months prior to WWII) were active in intelligence-gathering work. The threat of a West Coast invasion by Japanese forces was very real (Japanese submarine incursions and attacks w/ catapult aircraft, Attu invasion, balloon bombs; also Defense of the Americas) . Were there an invasion, how many resident Japanese would collaborate, willingly or unwillingly? Given the network of Japanese organizations active on the West Coast prior to Pearl Harbor, there was great fear among not only military leaders and personnel, but also civilians -- could these people of Japanese ancestry be trusted, and if so, whom?

With the promise of places of refuge planned for the Japanese, there must have been great relief that they at least had somewhere safe to live and work, with meals and other necessities taken care of, and especially, protected from vigilantes and irate Americans who wanted to get revenge on the Japanese. Primarily, the reception hundreds and thousands of West Coast refugees would receive from inland inhabitants would be the greatest worry (see Myer's testimony at the beginning of TL06-1).

In any society there are those who would betray even their own family. The US, then in a war against Japan, faced this very dilemma -- could the resident Japanese be trusted or would they be a potential threat to society? There were Japanese living in the US who were classified immediately as "enemy aliens" on December 8, 1941. Not only was their nationality a problem, but the fact that many did not speak the English language well nor understand and follow American customs and living habits made them "different" and hence not accepted into society easily. The relocation centers had this problem, and it was almost entirely through the English-speaking Japanese that discussions with the WRA were conducted. The lack of English language ability put the alien evacuees at a great disadvantage, compounded with the fact that they were enemy aliens. (IA094 has good info by Hoover on the evacuation decision pros and cons.)

The evacuation of all Japanese from the West Coast to the Interior of the U.S. was made necessary for reasons of military security. As time was of the essence, there was no alternative to the action taken... Despite the improvement in our military situation and the restoration of the Pacific fleet, the capabilities of the enemy are such as still to jeopardize the security of the West Coast.

The evacuation of these people did not constitute a determination as to their loyalty or disloyalty, nor did their assembly in the ten Relocation Centers built by the Army, and now administered by WRA, constitute the internment of these people. They are not internees or prisoners of war. It was never the intention of the Government from the beginning to confine all of them in these centers for the duration of the war. It has always been, and still remains, the intention to assist those whose loyalty have been definitely and fully examined and established, to locate themselves as rapidly as feasible elsewhere than on the West Coast, and to resume living under conditions as nearly normal as possible, the same as all other residents of the United States whose loyalties are not doubted. The fact of Japanese ancestry alone is not a reason for continued confinement. That would be racial discrimination.

It must be remembered that nearly 25,000 Japanese residents of the U.S., citizens and aliens, have resided elsewhere than on the West Coast for many years, where they have followed various occupations, living in harmony with their neighbors. These have never been in Government Centers.

The question is often brought up, "Why were only the Japanese put in camps?" Simply stated, other enemy nationals indeed were also put into camps in the US during WWII -- Germans, Italians, Bulgarians, etc. (see IA102 for INS totals; also PDF documents here on statistics; book on American-Italian evacuation here). The primary difference between these other countries and Japan was that Germany or Italy did not attack US territory and kill thousands of our people -- Japan did. There was also no threat of attack on the East Coast from either German or Italian naval forces. There was from the Japanese Navy which then ruled the Pacific. Furthermore, the 1940 US Census shows that there were some 3 million people of German and Italian ancestry living in the United States, making any evacuation process logistically impossible. It should also be noted that many of the recent arrivals of German immigrants to the US were refugees fleeing Nazism.

There was, therefore, the urgent necessity to deal with a group of foreigners within the United States who had suddenly become enemies of our nation. Unfortunately, this included their American-born children, who could not be separated from their parents, and therefore must inevitably share their fate.

For a better understanding on alien residents who became alien enemies, and the constitutionality of the evacuation, read WRA Final Report on Legal and Constitutional Phases of the WRA Program. See also Memoranda on the Constitutional Power of the WRA to Detain Evacuees, especially the 11 points in Opinion No. 3 on the "factual background against which the action was taken."

There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot -- by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight -- now say that at that time these actions were unjustified.
Court's opinion in Korematsu v. United States


One of the most overlooked issues dealing with the necessity for the evacuation was the intelligence we had on the resident Japanese prior to the decision to evacuate. The US had been secretly reading all Japanese diplomatic electronic messages sent out and received on the West Coast and had accumulated a wealth of information on the activities of the Japanese throughout the US.

Not many people were given daily updates on this intelligence gathered by the various agencies. Even WRA Director Myer was in the dark, and his views and opinions reflected this. It could not have been otherwise -- the military risk was much too great to allow top secret information to be shared by many, and even more, the source of this information. Had Myer been privy to the decrypts, he no doubt would have held a much more informed view regarding the reason the Japanese were evacuated from the West Coast.

Much criticism is aimed at the leaders -- Roosevelt, Stimson, McCloy, Bendetsen, and DeWitt -- the last of these receiving the major blame for the decision to evacuate those of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. (See Excerpts from an Oral History Interview with Karl R. Bendetsen where he summarizes the reasons for EO9066.) However, it is wise to remember exactly what was happening at that time in the Pacific War where the Imperial Japanese Forces ruled supreme, namely the situation on Bataan and Corregidor, and especially in Singapore, which surrendered to Japanese Forces on Feb. 15, 1942, just days before Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066. No doubt this massive surrender to Japanese Imperialists played a very important role in influencing decision-making on Capitol Hill. It is hard to conceive that the decision to evacuate was the result of any single person, given the magnitude of logistics and expense, not to mention the impact on human lives (see Corps of Engineers estimates).

It is difficult for people who did not live through that dreadful time to reconstruct the terror and the anxiety felt by people along the entire west coast. Disaster followed upon disaster after the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that same day, December 7, 1941, Japanese forces landed on the Malay Peninsula and began their drive toward Singapore. Guam fell on December 10, Wake on December 23. On December 8 Japanese planes destroyed half the aircraft on the airfields near Manila. As enemy troops closed in, General MacArthur withdrew his forces from the Philippines and retired to Australia. On Christmas day the British surrendered Hong Kong.

The Western World was scared stiff. The west coasts of the United States, rich with naval bases, shipyards, oil fields, and aircraft factories, seemed especially vulnerable to attack.

There was talk of evacuating not just the Japanese from the west coast but everybody. Who knew what was going to happen next?
-- former Senator S. I. Hayakawa

Japanese Imperial Expansionism

- Colonization of Hokkaido
- Colonization of Okinawa
- Taiwan seized (won war with China 1894-1895)
- Kwantung Province (North China) and South Sakhalin (SE Russia) seized (won war with Russia 1904-1905)
- Annexation of Korea

Major Japanese Military Conquests Prior to EO9066

Nov. 27 - Japanese fleets depart to attack east and invade west Pacific
Dec. 7 - Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Guam,  Philippines, invades Siam, Malaya, Hong Kong
Dec. 8 - Japan takes Gilbert Islands
Dec. 10 - Japan takes Guam
Dec. 11 - Japan invades Burma
Dec. 16 - Japan invades Borneo
Dec. 22 - Japan invades Philippines
Dec. 23 - Japan invades Wake Island
Dec. 24 - Battle of Makassar Strait
Dec. 25 - Hong Kong surrenders
Dec. 31 - Japan occupies Manila

Jan. 11 - Japan invades Dutch East Indies
Feb. 15 - Singapore surrenders

Chronology of Events on Dec. 7-8, 1941

December 8, 1941 [Japan Time]:
0015 Grew sees TOGO, reads message to him, and asks for appointment to deliver it to the
Emperor personally
0045 The Shanghai Bund occupied
0140 Kota Bharu [Malaya] shelled
0200 Komura asks to see Hull
0205 Japanese land at Kota Bahru
0300 Nomura asks for appointment meeting with Hull
0305 Japanese land at Singora and Patani (Siam)
0320-25 attack on Pearl Harbor
0405 Nomura arrives at Hull's office
0420 Nomura hands Hull the document terminating negotiations
0520 H.M.S. Peterel sunk
0530 Japanese troops invade Siam from French Indo-China
0610 air raid on Singapore
0700 Tokyo radio given first notice that hostilities have begun
0730 Grew calls on TOGO, who hands him copy of document handed by Nomura to Hull, stating it was Emperor's answer to President's message
0800 Craigie see TOGO at his request and is handed a copy of the last-mentioned document
0805 Guam attacked
0900 Hong Kong attacked
1140 Japan announced her attack on Hong Kong
1140~1200 Imperial Rescript issued
1150 Japan announced her attack on Malaya
1300 Japan announced her air raid on Hawaii and others
1700 Japan announced her air raid on the Philippines
2100 Japan announced her air raid on airdromes in the Philippines and advance into Thailand
-- From IMTFE Proceedings, Exhibit #001

December 7, 1941 [US Time]:
Japanese attack on PEARL HARBOR and other positions in PACIFIC opens war between U.S. and AXIS Powers.
MIDWAY - Shelled by enemy surface forces estimated at 12 ships.
WAKE - Attacked by 24 VB(M) from MARSHALLS.
GUAM - Attacked by 30 planes from SAIPAN.
PHILIPPINES - Attacked by planes from FORMOSA and PALAU. All U.S. aircraft virtually wiped out.
HONGKONG - Attacked by planes from CHINA and attacked by ships and troops.
SINGAPORE - Attacked by Japanese planes.
THAILAND - "Invaded" by Japs.
CHINA - Japanese intern U.S. nationals and Marines and British nationals at SHANGHAI and TIENTSIN.
December 8:
U.S., GREAT BRITAIN, and NETHERLANDS declare war on Japan.
MALAYA invaded.
PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE sunk by Jap. aircraft off MALAYA.
OCEAN and NAURU Islands bombed.
MAKIN and TARAWA, in GILBERTS, invaded.
--From US Navy Dept. Chronology

For more details, read Japan Assaulted More Than Pearl Harbor.

Worst Week

This was the worst week of the war. The nation took one great trip-hammer blow after another—vast, numbing shocks.

It was a worse week for the U.S. than the fall of France; it was the worst week of the Century. Such a week had not come to the U.S. since the blackest days of the Civil War...

At week's end, Singapore fell. The Axis had broken through. The nation now had only shreds of hope in the Far East...

Up & down the country editorial writers, living close to the people of their own communities, worried more about apathy than the collapse of morale. They wrote with bold strokes: AMERICA CAN LOSE; THE WAR CAN BE LOST; THIS SHOULD AWAKEN US.
--- TIME Magazine, Feb. 23, 1942

It is also important to consider that many of FDR's ideas were not carried out, e.g. the bombing of Tokyo in 1940 (see Roosevelt's Secret War by Persico). There were many other leaders who were decision-makers at the time. Hence, DeWitt or FDR or Stimson were not individually responsible for US Government policy or actions. Remember: It was the entire Congress which enforced the exclusion orders (Public Law 503, March 21, 1942). Our checks-and-balance system worked then just as it works now. Much more can be said about Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ranks among the greatest of our US Presidents, and the only President to have been elected to four terms in office (1933-1945) -- an extraordinary man for extraordinary times.

For further background information, see On the Japanese Problem (1921) and also the Report on Japanese Activities (1942).

Japanese Expansion in 1923

Japanese Conquest 1939-1941

Pacific War Dec 1941 - Feb 1942

Pacific War March - May 1942

Axis Plans for World Conquest


The problem with dealing with incidents in the past is that we in more modern days tend to base our ideas, opinions, and suppositions on our own current conditions, without truly looking at the past with respect to conditions and thinking at that time, putting ourselves into that era's thought frame. It's easy to label past mistreatment as discriminatory in light of what we have seen in our days. Prejudice is very subjective -- what is normal for one person is not for another. To say "all (ethnic group) are hard workers" would probably on the whole be accepted without a complaint, but to state "all (ethnic group) are sneaky" would elicit strong disapprovals. Why? Both are true for a certain number of the ethnic group; the latter is obviously negative, and therefore repulsive to many. It is a matter of qualification, much the same way a statement like "All Americans eat pizza" must be qualified. Much of the prejudices directed against persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast was due to years of Asian immigration and along with those immigrants a culture which was most foreign to the majority of ethnic-European Westerners. Policies were formed that showed to the general population that Asians were harming the existing culture and therefore needed to be controlled by laws.

There is much mention made of anti-Japanese organizations, e.g. the Native Sons of the Golden West, the American Legion, etc., and their rhetoric to cleanse the West of this particular ethnic group. Unfortunately the impression was given that all Americans wanted the Japanese out -- another myth that had to be addressed, and which Myer did (see TL42).

The bottom line is this: It was not the US Government which "forced" the Japanese out of their homes and fields; it was first of all the Japanese Imperialists who started the war that made Japanese nationals in the US sudden enemies. Secondly, it was the American people, who thought "their" America was too good a place for the likes of that yellow race which couldn't be trusted, who were here first, who didn't appreciate those who couldn't speak English or didn't act like Americans, who stayed only among their own kind. Granted, State governors and other top officials did not want the evacuees initially due to the war fervor. However, many did change and asked ("begged" could be used here) for evacuee labor due to the demand for manpower in agriculture and other industries. Nevertheless, discrimination and prejudice were still a part of American life, and the blame could not be laid at the feet of the Government. It is typical even today to blame the Government for the faults of the people.

It is most interesting to note that it was the US military (which was singled out as the main culprit for "forced removal") that employed a great number of Japanese-Americans, and many of those were Kibei, who were previously singled out as perhaps the most likely to be pro-Japanese, and not without good reason, per FBI reports, e.g. IA073, IA068). Yet a number of these same Kibei were sent to work in intelligence in the Pacific during WWII (total of 3,000 Nisei in Army Intelligence). In one report it is stated that the Office of Military Intelligence "recruited a large number of evacuees from the relocation centers for further training in language schools." A most intriguing study would be to delve into this whole area of Japanese-Americans in the service of the country. Much has been written about the Nisei soldiers of the 100th and 442nd; much more could be written about Nisei civilians working in other branches of the US Government.

It would be beneficial for anyone interested in the immigration problems of today to read through these pages and see how the situation was handled then with Japanese immigrants. Their policies and efforts may have application today (e.g. see TL43).

Perhaps the greatest credit for acceptance of the Japanese into American society after WWII can be placed with the Nisei and Sansei. They lived with and endured the discrimination and prejudice, and helped show the society around them how baseless their bias was. Scores of their books are available for validating this.

As long as there are humans on earth, there will be wrongful discrimination and racial prejudice, just as thievery, lying and adultery will continue. All nations have a group of people they discriminate against -- in fact, the Japanese themselves discriminate against the Koreans and "burakumin," though this problem has become more open and admitted by many. Racism is just as real today as it was in the first half of the 20th century.

Ironically, there was discrimination, jealousies and outright hatred among the Japanese in the centers (see IA202 re Tayama; also much on this in Soga). The loyal were hated by the disloyal, the Issei and Nisei and Kibei disagreed with each other on many things, the hatred of inu ("dog" in Japanese; used for informants), the intimidation of the Issei & Kibei on those who wanted to join the armed service, etc. -- a taboo subject today among not a few Nikkei.

The most famous quote attributed to DeWitt is "A Jap's a Jap. It makes no difference whether the Jap is a citizen or not." (E.g. JACL Curriculum and Resource Guide.) The same quote is featured in the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit... Neither the guide nor the exhibit offers a citation for the quote -- because no such actual quote exists. In a telephone conversation with Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, transcribed on Feb. 3, 1942, DeWitt said: "Out here, Mr. Secretary, a Jap is a Jap to these people now" (emphasis added). In this instance, DeWitt was characterizing Californians' sentiments, not necessarily his own -- though he repeats the phrase "A Jap's a Jap" later on in the transcript while explaining to McCloy the security difficulties faced by the troops. More than a year later, in public testimony before the House Naval Affairs Committee, DeWitt stated that ethnic Japanese still posed a threat to the West Coast and vital installations. "The danger of the Japanese was, and is now -- if they are permitted to come back -- espionage and sabotage. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty." When modern day ethnic activists and historians cite the "A Jap's a Jap" quote, the heavy-handed implication is that DeWitt's use of the term "Jap" -- offensive now, but common in his time -- makes him an unreconstructed racist. There are numerous instances of Attorney General Francis Biddle, who opposed evacuation, using the term "Jap."
-- From In Defense of Internment
by Michelle Malkin, pg. 337, note 42


After reading through the following pages, you will immediately be struck at how much effort went into making the relocation centers as comfortable as possible, within reason, of course, and bearing in mind the restrictions of wartime shortages and rationing. From living quarters to meals to fire prevention to hospitals, much thought went into the planning and activation of services for nearly every aspect of life at the centers. That the inhabitants were treated as prisoners, constantly under watch by armed guards, is something written as well as photographic history will find hard to prove.

Furthermore, there are no recorded cases of attempted escapes at night, tunnels dug under the fences for such purposes, smuggling weapons in and out of the centers, or even mob uprisings to break out of their confines. The reason is simply because there were no concentration-camp-like confining fences nor containment measures employed at the centers -- the residents were able to freely leave the centers for farm labor, athletic events and even walks and hikes out in the countryside. Barbed wire with 45-degree top brackets (inward slant specifically for stopping escapees) was used at Tule Lake for only the segregation area. See the assorted quotes below for comments by those who were there.

There were internment camps for persons who were arrested for different reasons. These were located in various areas around the US. The reasons for being there were such as those involved in disruptive activity, demonstrations at the centers, violence against other evacuees, etc. (e.g. Manzanar and Poston). Bendetsen, who was directing the entire program of evacuation and relocation, said, "Internment was never intended. The intention and purpose was to resettle these persons east of the mountain ranges of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada, away from the sea frontier and away from the relatively open boundaries between Mexico and the states of Arizona and New Mexico." Myer has a piece on this here where he describes the three types of centers. See also Wikipedia definitions.

Therefore, it is quite puzzling as to why so many authors prefer to use the terms "internment" and "internees" for those in relocation centers rather than the terms "relocation" and "evacuees." Internment was entirely different and internees were under entirely different confinement conditions, being run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Internment meant there were enemy aliens held and the possibility of their deportation. It is odd to think, if the centers were in actuality internment camps, that the US Govt. intended to deport over 100,000 Nikkei (though there was the suggestion by some who were anti-Japanese). Remember: The centers were run by a civilian organization (WRA), the internment camps by the US Govt. (INS), and the detention camps by the US Govt. (Army).

Granted, the term "concentration" does mean a group of people concentrated in a single area. The question is: why use this term when it was not used at the time? There is obviously an agenda on the part of those who insist these were concentration camps to magnify the suffering, deprivation and degradation the internees faced, to prove just how wrong the US Govt. was.

What is overlooked is this clear fact: the evacuees were provided with nearly every facility and service that a city would provide -- Federal and local government; electricity, water and sewage, police, fire and ambulance services, judicial, postal, banking, telephone, markets, schools, education and recreational centers, libraries, newspapers, and on and on. These were cities, not simply relocation centers, but cities, built in a matter of weeks, an accomplishment deserving much commendation, all paid for and supported by taxpayer funds.

For a very enlightening comparison, read the report on Raton Ranch, Civilian Detention Station (IA124). It would be a most interesting drama to read how the "detainees" at this station and those in charge of them developed lasting friendships, given the nature of the situation there.

A constant theme in most descriptions of the centers is that of being treated as prisoners with barbed wire fences around the centers and guard towers manned with machine guns and/or rifles. A quick perusal of actual photographs of each camp surroundings will show a somewhat contrary atmosphere. I thought this one was an especially poignant:

Tower, Jerome, 1944
"Closing of the Jerome Relocation Center, Denson, Arkansas. Clara Hasegawa and Tad Mijake take a last look at the Jerome Center from the balcony of one of the camp's guard towers. The towers have not been manned since segregation was completed during the latter part of 1943 and have been popular with the young folks as a place of rendezvous. This young couple will take up their new residence at the Rohwer Center." (06/19/1944)

For a full view of that tower, see this photo; another view of that lone tower here; also the Topaz tower; famous water tower at Minidoka; Santa Anita Park Assembly Center tower with machine gun. More towers and plenty of barbed wire were at the Tule Lake Segregation Center, needed for the evacuees who were "troublemakers," and others, along with their families, that were segregated there from other centers. See TL26 for more in-depth information on that center. Look at this photo of Tule Lake and note placement of towers -- more appropriate for fire rather than people control. Note also type of fence construction. Here is another photo of the high-security Tule Lake Segregation Camp, different from the original Tule Lake Center.

There are many references to barbed wire in the following documents: IA073, TL06-6 (see photo there), TL10, TL13, TL19, and TL32. Some centers were initially set up with fences around the perimeter, but were of much different height and quality as those around concentration camps. Signs were used at many of the centers, but photos of those are even hard to come by. Note in this photo the fence at Manzanar -- not typical at all, if this were indeed a "concentration camp" intended to keep occupants in. See also this fence at the Topaz Center. Two interesting photos taken at Heart Mountain show the fence and an excursion outside the fence.

It is interesting to note that for the two riots that occurred at centers, one at Manzanar and the other at Poston, guards were called in only at Manzanar. Had they been constantly watching the interior of the centers from their supposed "towers with machine guns," they would have quelled the gathering at an early stage with probably no violence ensuing.

In reality, fences and guard towers around the relocation centers is a moot point since there were 10's of 1,000's of evacuees laboring outside of the centers in the numerous expansive farm fields. These had no barbed wire fences or guard towers (nor armed guards for that matter). Furthermore, the few search lights on these towers indicates that there was no need to keep any of the occupants of the centers under surveillance, even at night, a time during which breakouts and other clandestine activity would normally be expected. The initial assembly centers were a different story, of course, as well as the Tule Lake Segregation Center, where vigilance was very important.

For a good comparison of what the situation was like for our POWs in Japan, see my Fukuoka POW website, especially the pages showing what the US Recovery Team saw when they arrived right after the war. For an excellent comparison of civilians in internment under the Imperial Japanese, see Lou Gopal's website, Victims of Circumstance - Santo Tomas Internment Camp. The DVD is a must-view. Another very moving film is So Very Far From Home about civilian internees in China. Additional information on civilian internees in Japan can be found on my POW website, the main page being this table on Civilian Internment Camps in Japan. Also, read this excerpt from the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in which a Japanese POW tells of the kind treatment he received from the US military.

I emphasize this last point because the relocation centers were not "concentration camps." The younger generation of Japanese Americans love to call them concentration camps. Unlike the Nazis, who made the term "concentration camp" a symbol of the ultimate in man's inhumanity to man, the WRA officials worked hard to release their internees, not to be sent to gas chambers, but to freedom, to useful jobs on the outside world and to get their B.A. at Oberlin College.

By 1945, there were almost 2,500 Nisei and Issei in Chicago, a city that was most hospitable to Japanese, and I myself found relatives I did not know existed. Other Midwest and Eastern cities acquired Japanese populations they did not know before the war: Minneapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, New York, Madison, Wis., Des Moines, St. Louis, and so on. And those who remained in camp in most cases did so voluntarily. These were the older people, afraid of the outside world, with the Nation still at war with Japan.

I point out these facts to emphasize the point that to call relocation centers concentration camps, as is all too commonly done, is semantic inflation of the most dishonest kind, an attempt to equate the actions of the U.S. Government with the genocidal actions of the Nazis against the Jews during the Hitler regime. As an American I protest this calumny against the Nation I am proud to have served as an educator and even prouder to serve as a legislator.


Many refer to some of the centers as being in barren deserts. In reality, all the centers had sufficient water supplied via lakes and streams, and distributed via irrigation ditches. A quick look at the maps and aerial photos of theApple tree pose, Manzanar, 1942 relocation areas is sufficient to convince one that agriculture played a very important part in the lives of the evacuees. For instance, Manzanar, often portrayed in photos as stark and dusty, had a thousand apple and pear trees already there that were cared for by the evacuees when they moved in, and these same trees ended up producing thousands of dollars worth of fruit. [PHOTO: "Florence Yamaguchi (left), and Kinu Hirashima, both from Los Angeles, are pictured as they stood under an apple tree at Manzanar." (Manzanar, 06/01/1942)]

Center farms produced tens of thousands of dollars of produce which was shipped to other relocation centers. For instance, the Gila River center in Arizona converted some 7,000 acres from alfalfa to vegetable crops -- hardly what could be expected of a desert location. Tule Lake, incidentally, with its fertile soil, produced 1,300 tons of vegetables in a single harvest, 30% of which was for their own consumption, 60% for other centers, and the remainder sold on the market. For further evidence of this agricultural marvel, see these Crop, Vegetable, and Livestock Production charts. See also IA066 on the prerequisites for choosing suitable locations for the relocation centers.

Human nature enjoys pity, admiration for going through the worst -- "Oh that must have been awful for you. How terrible that you were treated so inhumanely!" There are quite a few books on the subject that depict a variety of woeful experiences at the various centers. I take excerpts, mostly the words of Issei, from Gesensway and Roseman, Beyond Words (one chapter of which is entitled, "It was the Best Times of our Lives") to show the brighter and plausible reality of the whole episode:
Atsushi Kikuchi
I never volunteer to talk about evacuation unless somebody asks about it. Not because of the experience, but because afterwards I felt it was a real miserable time. Perhaps it benefited the Japanese Americans in the sense that prior to the war they were concentrated in California, and a lot of the Japanese wouldn't mingle. Because of the evacuation, there was a chance for the Japanese Americans all over the United States. Now you can go any place and find Nisei. That probably would have never happened unless the relocation sent them out to the East and Midwest. I think it was good in that respect. Maybe the war would have done the same thing.

Henry Sugimoto
Some people are so bitter. I am, of course, so worried and anxious that I was going to camp. So worried. But when I went to camp, I'm rather happy, you know, because I can do my work and do what I like. If I can still make my art, I am feeling not so bitter. I'm artist, and I can do my work any place, anywhere. Other people have quite a different feeling; that's just my feeling.

So then we left camp for New York. A minister -- he was commissioned to visit camp to camp -- when he came to visit my camp, he always came to see me. And he said, "Mr. Sugimoto, where do you want to go? You want to go back to California?" And I said, "No, I am artist. If I can, I want New York." That's best, because New York not so much discrimination. Before the war, we had so much discrimination. So mostly, people go to New York or Chicago -- they're all spreading after the war, all spreading.

Hiro Mizushima
The barrack itself was just tar paper on the outside. We had a pot belly stove; Arkansas did get pretty cold. The inside was just bare wood walls and there were cots, just like army cots. The floor was just bare. I remember air coming through the bottom. But I have to give the Issei and the Japanese people a lot of credit because they did something with it. Even these dull-looking black tar paper covered barracks became attractive after a time. They put gardens in front of them and all that. Rohwer was in a wooded area and it was quite nice. So it wasn't as bad as people might think and still it wasn't as good.

Togo Tanaka
My constant and repeated reference to that fence is perhaps unfair because it seems to leave so little room for all the happy things that went on and continued to go on within the relocation camps. But these happened in spite of and not because of it.

Charles Mikami
A lot of people wanted to go back to Japan, and I told them, "Don't go back. Japan has hard times now -- America bomb; everything flat." You got to use your head. "Don't go back. You'll want to come back to America again." But at that time, you can't come back. People would say, "Japan's better, Japan win," like that, you know. I say, "No, I don't think so" They say, "You're terrible; you're pro-American" "No, I'm not pro-American. Japan now has big battleships and strong army, but Japan has no oil, no rubber. Maybe keep up for a while, but they can't go on. So I don't think so." But "Mr. Mikami's pro-American," they say So I got to keep my mouth shut. I don't say anything. Just painting, no meetings. I'm instructor of art, that's enough. So I had a nice time in the camp -- quiet.

Jack Matsuoka
When the school first opened, they didn't have teachers, no books. So just go to class to hear somebody talk, that's about it. I had my heart set on going to college, but once I got in the camp I gave up studying totally. It's so hot and so crowded, we all went outside to sleep. We'd talk, just talk all night long -- about girls, sports, boys, the army. Next day, you had a hard time getting up. So for us kids, just get up, eat, and play, that's all. Every now and then have a dance party. So it wasn't that bad for us.

Sports were real important. We'd get up and play basketball, baseball. I was on the basketball team and I helped coach football. I remember we had to buy our own baseball and basketballs from Sears, and our own uniforms and set up our own league. We had championship playoffs. It's funny, but I think sports were one of the key factors that kept people from going astray, or feeling dissatisfied in camp. If it weren't for those athletic leagues, I think there would have been more dissension.

And the young kids did hate to live with their parents in such close quarters. No place to go, except to the grandstand with their girlfriend or something. In the evening we'd often take a walk around the racetrack for exercise.

Shoes all wore out because of the fine gravel. Pretty soon we wanted shoes badly. They hadn't organized yet so we couldn't order them. So we started making wooden shoes -- getas. They made them quite well. They'd get boards, and old tire rubber, and they put it on the bottom so it doesn't make too much noise and wear out. So I had one made too. I got so that I liked them.

It was a conflict because the Isseis and the Niseis, they're both living close together. Before camp we only went around with the Niseis, we didn't have much to do with the first generation. They were our enemies in a way. Now, that's a funny thing to say, but we didn't like them when we were teenagers. And yet we had to get to know them, had to get along because we were living in the same barrack with just a little paper in between. My neighbor wanted to paint, but he couldn't make the color turquoise, so I helped him, and he helped me. I got to know him, and I thought, well, he's not so bad. These oldsters -- we used to call them oldsters -- they're human, they're nice.

Yuri Kodani
For the kids it was great. We didn't have to get home for dinner because there were mess halls all over and we could just stop in with our friends.

Life in camp really wasn't that bad, especially in Arkansas. Once we got there, the camp started its own farm, growing vegetables. Everybody had a victory garden right by their barracks. And then they had a pork farm also. And everybody had their own jobs -- some people were paid sixteen dollars a month and others were paid nineteen dollars a month -- which was kind of silly. But Sears, Roebuck did a tremendous business! Yes, everybody had a Sears catalogue and ordered things.

Masao Mori
Camp life wasn't too different -- except I had time for sketching... Oh, I enjoy drawing so much I go outside the camp sketching. First three or four months we can't go out, but after a year or so, we can go out all right. I did a lot of sketching outside the camp, I have some sketchings inside.

Lili Sasaki
And of course, Japanese love clubs. We were clubbed to death in all the camps: sewing clubs and poetry clubs and this and that. Right away, we put together a writers' club, artists' club. Even an exercise club. I could get up in the morning, and I could hear them exercising. The Japanese are organizers, right away they are organizing. We also put on plays. We decided we might have dancing -- got all the musicians who could play jazz or records. So we did have a lot of dances. We decided that we are going to have dances and let the people have fun.

Folk play, Heart Mountain, 1942
"A group of actors in a scene from a play depicting a legendary incident of old Japan, as presented at an entertainment program at this relocation center." (Heart Mountain, 09/19/1942)

Kango Takamura
One time, right in front of RKO Studios, one actor (says), "Your people!" -- points like this at me -- "Pearl Harbor!" He looks terrible, you see. My boss (reprimanded) him so he won't say anything after that. And then (my boss) said, "Hey Tak, this is trouble. You have to watch out. This kind of fellow is all over around there, so you have to watch out." Every day they were so nice. Some people understand so much, sympathize for us. And in the wartime, we don't get any jobs, I think. I hated the fact that I was born in Japan at that time, but only at that time. The Japanese third generation talk lots about it now. They say we were Americans so not supposed to (be interned). But for us, it's very protective, see.

And finally I was released and went to Manzanar. We arrived at Manzanar in the early morning, before sunrise. Beautiful. All pink. The mountains around there were all pink. So beautiful. Yes, I thought this is such a nice place. I joined my wife, and daughter, and her husband, and granddaughter and stayed there three years. I worked so hard there. Every day I enjoy. Usually when I worked in the movie studios I would work eight hours. But every day at the camp, I worked ten hours. I was happy. I moved into a barrack in the very corner, Camp 35. Nobody was there. Just snakes, such a wild place! Only the lumber was laid down, that's all. So we had to tarpaper and put waterlines in.

Really our life was not so miserable. Everyone was writing songs and learning how to paint and studying and writing poems. It is not so miserable a life. After the war is over, people thought it was a miserable place. But it was better than Island people in Japan had, I think, because we at least had plenty of food. Of course, not such good food! Funny thing is that it was not such good food, but very few got sick because of the food. You see, it's not gourmet stuff, but good enough for health. And plenty of water. Japanese people make big baths with cement, and we got in there together, not individually, but five people, seven people, ten people all together. So very nice. In those days, you know, we don't think about wartime. Sometime we forget. It was so peaceful up there. It was very peaceful because the younger people who made too much noise and trouble, they went to another camp (Tule Lake).

My nature doesn't like trouble. I am afraid, you see. I don't want to see any blood. (During the revolt) about fifty people came to my daughter's place to get her husband (Togo Tanaka, who had been identified with the JACL). I was among them because I want to watch my daughter and grandchild. I'm afraid they try to hurt my daughter. The army came after that to protect them, and I took my grandchild to the army car and she cried. So afraid, you see. I said, "Don't you cry, Jeannie!" I scold like this, and she stopped crying. She understood -- only one year old. She stopped right away. "Please take this baby to her family over there," I said. And they took her and moved them to the army camp that night. So we are safe.

George Akimoto
I didn't have any problem because we had a twenty-acre farm. We put everything in the barn. The neighbor, Mr. Doyle, an Irishman, my father knew for sixty years. Mr. Doyle took care of the whole place. In those days (you heard), you know, "Kill the Jap! Kill the Jap!" But he took care of it. He took care of the truck, the farm. He farmed it himself with his kid. He rented the house. This is the reason you don't make a friend with just anybody. You've got to know who you are, who he is.

In the meantime, on my wife's side -- they lived in Fresno -- the whole house was burned down. They had somebody take care of the whole place; there's no alternative. Somebody rented the house or whatever, and burned the whole house down. It's a hard thing to say, whether it's right or wrong to have to go to camp.

Already right after Pearl Harbor there were people carrying guns, looking for the Japs. What good is it when you're shot? The Chinese themselves went around wearing little badges that said, "I'm American Chinese." I couldn't tell the difference between the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese. I couldn't tell the difference. But they made the difference. They put the badges on, I felt it's for safety. It's dangerous in those days. The people were so panicked, confused. They didn't know what to do. I thought it's better off just to go, it's for our own safety. My family, my wife's family, nobody got shot. But people did. That's what the government said, it's for our own protection. Also, there's nothing you can do. It's the same sort of situation like when you're drafted into the army. You just have to go.

Before the evacuation I was just trying to make something. I wanted to do something. My father was a farmer. We had a twenty-acre farm. Get up at five o'clock in the morning, plow the fields, work like that. I decided I didn't want to farm. I decided to go to college. I went to two years at Pomona College. But I hear about these people who go to college, get a degree, and then can't get a job. The Japanese people finally have the money to send their kids to college. But when you get out of college in those days, there's no job because of what they call prejudice. They will not hire Japanese. So we end up working in the fruit markets or something like that. So I said, "The heck with that." That's what happened. So I said, "I quit." I decided I was going to be a real professional, and I went to art school.

I didn't start that war. ****! I didn't start the war. But what can I do? They put us in the camp. You can't do anything in the camp -- no painting, no nothing. The thing is you have to make the best of it in the camp. I wasn't carrying any chip on my shoulder against the government or anything. No. It's the condition; you have to get used to it. My father and mother were in there for three years.

Gene Sugioka
When the first evacuees came to the relocation camp -- they are from Terminal Island, mostly from Los Angeles, and they move into Poston #1 -- these Arizonians, a truckload of men with shotguns, travel from Parker to the camp. They're going to shoot them (the evacuees) all. So, it's a good thing they had a MP; he stopped them.

The problems in the camps came from what they called the age gap. In the camp they had a struggle between young and old. One of the young people says, "The **** with it; I can't stay in this camp," and they just take off. They volunteer for the army. But the old man Issei says, "No, the government took us to the relocation camp like this. We're going to go back to Japan." Oh, then they had a fight!

And it's not just the age gap, it's culture. There are two different cultures in the camp: the Nisei, and the Issei and Kibei. It's a hard thing. I'm right in the middle. What can I do? And then, they have -- I think it's the most important part of the whole camp situation -- the government published pamphlets which asked two questions: "Are you loyal to the United States?" and "Will you bear arms to fight for your country?" Oh, this is the big issue. Oh, boy! Most people, Issei, say, "Why should you say 'yes'? The government put us in the camp." But what can the Nisei do? You can't go around speaking your views openly because this Kibei will came out there in the middle of the night and grab you and cut your hair off. He shaved the whole hair off of the Nisei. Yes, I guess my wife was always worried about that. She said, "Don't go out there in the middle of the night."

Dr. Leighton used to come up in his Navy uniform with the lieutenant stripes on it to visit me at lunchtime. He sat next to me eating lunch. All the people look at me and call me a dog. (The Issei and Kibei) think that I'm supposed to be an agent or something because Dr. Leighton was in a uniform and comes in and talks to me or something. Then this guy, old timer, comes in and says, "How do you write your last name?" He says, "When Japan conquers the whole United States, when they're going to win the war, you'll be in the first ones going to be hanged!"

In the meantime, this old man, making that kind of statement, what do you think his son does? His son volunteers for the army -- went to Italy. The Issei was up and down, crying. He's going around camp apologizing to older people -- "Why did my son do a thing like that?" Apologizing to other people. I said, "No, it's not wrong. He has his own opinion. He has a right to live his own way." Oh when I saw that.... We're in the same boat, that's what I'm trying to tell these people. We're in the same boat. Why can't we work together? Oh, some radical people!

One time, they had an incident. They had a big protest, something about food. That was in Camp 1; I was in Camp 2. Camp 1 is early evacuees from Terminal Island. They have a strong group of Isseis, pro-Japan; a group in the middle, like I am; and a third group who don't care, never get involved. They're fighting each other because one has the power or wants it. They had a big strike. See this flag over here? These are groups of Kibei -- pro-Japan. They're having a rally. Some people want to elect me for the block manager. But I don't want to. It's not worth it. I didn't want to be involved. So much political party fighting.

We go fishing in the Colorado River. I like fishing; I still do today. A lot of Japanese people like fishing. It's the only place you could relax -- fishing or something like that in the Colorado. Walked four miles through all the mesquite wood and the rattlesnakes. And this guy -- this is very important -- this representative from California named (John M.) Costello, he's on what they call in those days the Dies Committee. He comes to the camp; it was his order to see what goes on there, I suppose. Well, he finds a piece of Wonderbread bag on the riverbank where we were fishing. So you use a little bread for bait, that's it. This Costello made a report. He said that Japanese were waiting for a submarine coming up the Colorado River! I don't think it's funny; it's crazy! Even today I think why didn't they put the Italians and the Germans in the camps? But the point is the majority of the population is Italians and Germans and you can't do that to the population. Because we are a minority...

Fishing, Tule Lake, 1942
"During the noon hour, evacuee farm workers fish for
carp in a nearby slough." (Tule Lake, 09/08/1942)

Some say we shouldn't be in relocation camps. We are American citizens. I don't feel like that. The conditions we were in with the war and this and that.... You can't carry a chip on your shoulder. It's wrong. I mean it's wrong in the black and white, what you write on the piece of paper. Unconstitutional. But when you talk about how you feel about it, I really don't know. It's something else. I really don't know.
For more comments by a first-generation Japanese, see Through the Eyes of an Issei: The Internment of Japanese in the United States during World War II, a compilation of excerpts from Yasutaro Soga's memoirs, Life Behind Barbed Wire.


It must be kept in mind that nearly all of the American citizens in the relocation centers were under 35 years of age, with the largest group being between 10 and 25. About 35% of the entire population were NOT American citizens, and comprised the majority of the parents of those who WERE American citizens, and the majority of those young people were under 20 years of age. In other words, the youth (Nisei and Sansei) outnumbered their elders (Issei), the majority of the evacuees being young people. No doubt the idea that U.S. citizens were "incarcerated" or "interned" conjures up negative connotations, making it sound as if they were POWs. In reality, they were children of alien parents, and naturally, the great majority of them could not be separated from their parents.

(There were 110,000 Nikkei who were affected by EO9066 and under the WRA -- 38,000 Issei (over half from southern Japan) and 72,000 Nisei. Of those Nisei, 41,000 were 19 yrs. of age and under.)

So just who were these evacuees? Mostly young people, who were mostly American citizens. It is therefore interesting to note the number of recent books written about life at the centers are by those who were youth at the time, some just toddlers. How they viewed the centers naturally would be considerably different from how their parents saw the situation.

Due to the large number of young citizens, they naturally were eligible for positions in the government of the centers, to the chagrin of the elders, who were non-Americans. This added even more unrest among the classes of people at the centers. Much could be written about the cultural clashes between the two generations, why the parents didn't move somewhere else when they could have, and so on.

Here are some statistics on the number of children who were also registered with the Japanese Govt., hence having dual citizenship:


Out of 39,310 births of children of Japanese ancestry registered at the Japanese consulate since 1925, 17,825 registered to become Japanese subjects, taking advantage of dual citizenship.

The record by years follows:

1925 - males, 744; females, 648; total, 1,392.
In 1926 - males, 1,842; females, 1,751; total, 3,593.
In 1927 - males, 1,530; females, 1,465; total, 2,995.
In 1928 - males, 1,582; females, 1,443; total, 3,025.
In 1929 - males, 889; females, 835; total, 1,724.
In 1930 - males, 681; females, 644; total, 1,325.
In 1931 - males, 611; females, 575; total, 1,188.
In 1932 - males, 490; females, 492: total, 982.
In 1933 - males, 449; females, 403; total, 825.
In 1934 - males, 407; females, 371; total, 778.
Grand total, 17,825.

Since 1929 the public schools at the primary grades insist that all children who enter the elementary grade shall show a birth certificate. This, it is said, has had a far-reaching effect on parents in reducing registration of their children with the Japanese consulate.

From 1925 until 1934, 5,676 American citizens of Japanese ancestry have been expatriated from Japan. The year-by-year figures are:

In 1925, 402 males; 85 females; total 487.
In 1926, 430 males; 108 females; total, 538.
In 1927, 285 males; 51 females; total, 336.
In 1928, 234 males; 32 females; total, 266.
In 1929, 205 males; 19 females; total, 226.
In 1930, males, 218; females, 18; total, 236.
In 1931, males, 261; females, 29; total, 290.
In 1932, males, 902; females, 346; total, 1,248.
In 1933, males, 1,204; females, 323; total, 1,527.
In 1934, males, 484; females, 133; total, 614.
Grand total, males, 4,624; females, 1,144; both males and females, 5,768.

It will be recalled that there was much agitation in 1932 and 1933 against dual citizenship, and the large increase in expatriation during the years, as shown by the tables, is believed to have resulted from that agitation.
-- Investigation of Un-American Propaganda, Appendix VI,
Report on Japanese Activities, p. 2000 (1942)

"To encourage the proudest Japanese national spirit which has ever existed, to fulfill the fundamental principle behind the wholesome mobilization of the Japanese people, to strengthen the powers of resistance against the many hindrances which are to be faced in the future, and to realize this permanent peace in the Far East which will bring happiness and security to the Asiatic people and make firm the foundation of our mother country, the Great Japanese Empire, as the proudest nation in the world. We who are unable to accomplish our important objective as soldiers on the battle front must adopt the special method of the Long-Term-Donation policy and in this way assist in financing the war with the utmost effort on the part of both the first and second generation Japanese and whoever is a descendant of the Japanese race. Now is the time to awaken the Japanese national spirit in each and everyone who has the blood of the Japanese race in him. We now appeal to the Japanese in Gardena Valley to rise up at this time."
--- From purpose of the "Compulsory Military Service Association," Gardena, Calif. Branch;
January 15, 1942 (see IA060)


Another issue raised is a Selective Service questionnaire comprised of a total of 28 questions, the last two becoming most controversial in that they asked all evacuees 17 years of age and over about their loyalty and allegiance to the United States and to Japan. The sole purpose of the questionnaire, part of a Selective Service registration process, was fundamentally to determine who was loyal to the US and who was pro-Japanese. Having this information, the WRA would then know who could be released from the centers for induction into the military, and also who to segregate (15,000 were moved to Tule Lake using the questionnaire results). Another similar but more in-depth questionnaire was for leave clearance to go to work on war-related industrial projects or simply for relocating out of the centers (see related TL05 and Leave Clearance Interview Questions.)

The initial wording for Question #28 caused confusion for some (Tule Lake), and so it was re-worded and labeled #28-A:
INITIAL: "Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attacks by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese Emperor or any other foreign government, power or organization?"

RE-WORDED #28-A: "Will you swear to abide by the laws of the United States and to take no action which would in any way interfere with the war effort of the United States?"
It can be clearly seen the intent of the questionnaire: to determine who would be loyal to the U.S. in the event of a Imperial Japanese military invasion of the West Coast, and who would be considered a possible collaborator. Wartime vigilance required extra precaution, especially in view of the fact that Japan had the most powerful Navy in the Pacific, and indeed controlled for the most part the whole Pacific region, and the potential for attack and invasion was quite real, even though diminished after the Coral Sea and Midway battles. (See IA012 for more information.)

The big unknown was trust -- who among the Nikkei in the US could they trust? As in any society, it only takes a few troublemakers to cause laws to be made which affect everybody. In the same way, the Nikkei who were engaged in espionage and other clandestine activities put a black mark on the whole population of those of Japanese descent.

The situation in the centers was changing -- Nisei were being more and more influenced by the Issei and Kibei (see IA031). Easily moldable minds of youth were most susceptible to the constant talk of the elders, now that they were together daily and learning more of the old ways of Japan and its language. The need for determining just which side of the fence the Nisei were on was great, and the questionnaire was one way to find out. (See info on loyalty in IA106.)

It may be mentioned here that one of the things many bring out is the fact that no Nikkei was ever convicted of espionage or sabotage. (Using the same reasoning, equally ridiculous, one can also say that no Nikkei was found innocent of espionage or sabotage.) The real issue is that there were thousands of Japanese who were placed into detention and internment camps for their alleged involvement in subversive operations, but none of them were brought to trial -- for obvious reasons of security, as the incriminating evidence was still top secret then. See FBI reports of those under investigation and info on their activities on the West Coast; also MAGIC decrypts; also see IA021 (esp. re Tachibana Case), IA059IA024, IA040, IA211a and IA235 for FBI & ONI reports; also G-2 Bulletin on Japanese Espionage. For actual cases against Japanese Americans, see Kawakita; also other surprising info in Nakahara as well as in this collection on Nisei in the Emperor's service. Further research can be found on fifth-column activity in Japanese-resident countries in SE Asia, e.g. the Philippines and Malay.

The Japanese diplomatic and military codes had been broken in secret during 1941. This intelligence named MAGIC conclusively established the clear military necessity for President Roosevelt's act. It revealed the existence on the Pacific coast of massive espionage nests utilizing Japanese residents, citizens and noncitizens.
-- Karl Bendetsen

The Japanese Government probably had their hopes on the Nisei in the event that war broke out between the two countries -- the Issei would not be of much help in espionage work since they would be placed under immediate watch as enemy aliens. They were greatly disappointed to have their hopes dashed by the quick arrest of suspected Japanese and the evacuation of all the rest. The extent to which the Japanese were evacuated in the US bears greatly on the extent to which the Imperial Govt. of Japan were able to utilize intelligence gathering and surveillance in the US. We had broken many of their codes, and they had not done the same with ours, fortunately. We guarded that secret well. Had we dealt with the Nikkei in the US any other way would have revealed too much info which we had derived from broken coded messages. This could very well be the reason many of the military leaders in the US became scapegoats and took the blame rather than reveal their true sources of intelligence.

The results of this questionnaire are most interesting, in view of all the uproar: of all those who registered for the questionnaire (3,000 did not), nearly 97% of the Issei, 74% of the male Nisei, and 85% of the female Nisei answered "Yes" to Question #28 (TL-21). See below for more thoughts on this topic.


Japan was closely watching the internment, evacuation and relocation of the Issei (also called hojin, Japanese nationals; another term commonly utilized was doho, fellow countrymen or compatriots, e.g. nihonjin doho, kaigai doho or zaibei doho; yamato minzoku was another term) and Nisei in the US, and no doubt affected their policy toward treatment of Allied POWs and civilian internees in Japan -- see TL21, TL23, TL32 Japanese Diet quote, TL33 propaganda, IA012, IA202 in several places, and also these books on the Gripsholm exchanges, Quiet Passages by Corbett and Japanese-American Civilian Prisoner Exchanges by Elleman. There may have been a great turn of events in how Japan treated our POWs in their hundreds of camps had some of the media organizations in the US not spewed forth their anti-Japanese rhetoric so vehemently. This may be another interesting study in this whole complex issue -- the effect of the US media portrayal of the evacuation and relocation program on the Japanese Imperial Government (see TL26). Interestingly, there was a request by the State Department that a Nisei accused of espionage NOT be prosecuted "until the agreement entered into between this Government and the Japanese government for the reciprocal repatriation of nationals has been carried out" (see IA040).

Had there been no unrest at the centers, many US civilians in Japan could have potentially returned on repatriation ships. The problem would have been, though, whether Japan would have really agreed to more civilian exchanges as they were stepping up their use of Allied POW labor. But if the ill behavior of those individuals in the relocation centers did in fact influence the Japanese Govt.'s hard-line attitude, much blame can be laid at the feet of those instigators. The question can be asked, however -- Did the Japanese Govt. actually want any of her hojin nationals returned? Most of the Issei wanted to stay in the US anyway (see TL48).

Also consider: To have allowed the evacuees to relocate too early, or to certain areas, may have led to acts of violence against them by the anti-Japanese faction, which certainly would have then influenced the Imperial Japanese to retaliate against our POWs. One must realize that these type of things were constantly taken into consideration by our leaders -- not only concerning the welfare of the evacuees but also our POWs in Japan.


On the whole, it could very well be said that the evacuation of the Nikkei from the Western Defense Command designated military areas resulted in their preservation from harm, danger, loss of possessions, and even possibly, loss of their lives. Had they remained in their homes, they would have been the constant targets of harassment due to war reports on Imperial Japanese victories and the cruel treatment of American POWs (see section here in TL04). They had already been subject to increasing immigration and other assorted restrictions through the preceding decades, so to the non-Japanese in their communities it would be considered normal to impose even greater restrictions, such as jailings, or even worse, lynching.

Those very neighbors could even have eventually set up their own internment camps to deal with their enemy alien neighbors, and who knows how much more dire their conditions would have been. In view of the war-time American feelings towards Japan and her people, the centers were indeed refuges from harm and danger, for which all those who lived there should be thankful. A good example of how the Nikkei were protected from mob violence, see this report on the Raton Ranch camp where they were "very happy" and "wished to remain" at this "small country community."

Furthermore, having just come out of the Great Depression during which thousands lost their farms, their jobs, and many of their possessions, the Nikkei were suddenly given a new lifestyle which was comparatively worry-free -- no need to be concerned about a job, food, shelter and medical attention for the entire family. It was a life quite advantageous in many ways, no doubt a subject of envy by outsiders, and something again for which the Nikkei can be grateful. provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary... including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.
-- President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Executive Order 9066


The evacuees at the centers were not just on the welfare roll or on the taking end of things. One of the greatest benefits America received at home during WWII through the Nikkei was their agricultural labors. As stated earlier, they not only produced great quantities of food, but, due to manpower shortages throughout the US during the war, they worked on farms to help harvest crops which would have been left to rot otherwise, e.g. the sugar-beet crop, which later helped somewhat to ease sugar rationing (see first part of TL21). There are many other industries in which the relocatees worked and helped America win the war (see WRA short films, A Challenge to Democracy (1944), Japanese Relocation (1943)).


The very ones who did not want the Japanese living in their neighborhood were the very ones who ended up supporting them in the relocation centers, all paid by their taxes. Myer realized this in many of his reports, commenting on the burden the care of over 100,000 people places on US taxpayers (see TL21, TL22, TL23, TL27 Letter to Truman, and TL34). He therefore felt the relocation program should be carried out to completion by allowing all residents to return to normal living conditions outside the centers. In this, he was most successful.


In closing, I present these major points to consider:
1. Japan's unprovoked sneak attack on a US territory was the primary cause of the entire evacuation program, whereby it brought into existence a state of war between Japan and the United States, and hence, citizens of both nations becoming enemies.

2. The Imperial Japanese Naval Forces ruled a third of the world, including the Pacific Region.

3. The West Coast was a target for a Japanese invasion.

4. Japanese of non-American citizenship on the West Coast were suddenly enemies. Their children born in the US were unfortunately included due to relation.

5. Language and cultural barriers prevented mutual understanding. Great distrust and malice toward the Japanese became more and more evident and severe.

6. The US military was very much afraid of Imperial Japan westward expansionism; the US public was even more so. Remember... Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast was only 3 years earlier and had resulted in mass hysteria.

7. Anti-American activities by Japanese organizations on the West Coast were alarming.

8. Japan's cruel and atrocious treatment of Allied POWs and interned civilians (some 14,000 civilians alone at outbreak of war) was becoming more and more known to the US.

9. The planning of the mass evacuation and relocation was not a spur of the moment decision nor the work of only a few men. The manpower numbers and cost involved was immense, requiring approval from many committees and involving much personnel and tax-payer funding. If there were a more practical and cost-efficient program, and a more just program, it would have been chosen. Furthermore, no one could have fully understood the reasoning and thought processes of the President, Secretary of State, and other military planners of the program, for these were not recorded in any manner, nor perhaps even discussed with anyone.

10. Many evacuees themselves feared relocation due to their perception of and actual experience with animosity outside the centers. To remain in the centers guaranteed their safety.

11. Most every Nikkei complied with the military proclamations and regulations regarding evacuation, center policy, the leave program, and closure of the centers.

12, No one in the relocation centers tried to escape.
One of the remarkable things during my research has been my discovery -- somewhat sad, though quite understandable -- that Nisei for the most part had and still have trouble with the Japanese language -- sad in that they have lost touch with their heritage; understandable in that they prove the power of the American culture. My anticipations of the Nisei, and Sansei for that matter, is unfair, of course -- my father couldn't speak Norwegian, and neither can I, though his father emigrated from Norway; I have, sadly, little interest in that country's culture or traditions. Undoubtedly it is because I have spent so much time in Japan and learned to speak, read and write the language and absorbed as much culture as I could. And that is precisely the reason I view with wonderment so many Japanese in the US who have so little attachment to that land where I, in many ways, grew up.

I regret that I could not get to all the volumes of materials available on this whole subject <chuckle>. Perhaps a greater regret would be that I do not have 10 more lives that would give me the time to accomplish such a task.

The problem with all of this research is that so much is subjective, naturally. My own research is indeed so. In the quest for objectivity, I venture to say that one must interview every single person involved with an event in history. But alas, in the end, one is left with a thousand different subjective accounts! For all accounts hang upon one extremely vital nail -- truthfulness.

Reading through the material, I was often struck by how much Myer cared for all Nikkei -- Issei, Nisei, and Kibei. He tried his best to be fair, and I do believe they all had no greater friend than the man who was put in charge of them. That's why he was given a special citation by the Japanese American Citizens League on May 22, 1946. What a very different story would have emerged had they have had commandants similar to what American prisoners of war and civilian internees had in Japan. Myer was in many respects the man greatly responsible for their preservation, a man to whom they will ever be grateful.

Perhaps the whole period of evacuation and relocation resulted in firmer US policies during war -- what to do with those aliens who become enemy nationals, and, even more so, what to do with their children who have US citizenship.

Suppose we were to be suddenly attacked by Iran, and they destroyed the greater part of our forces in neighboring Iraq, whereby our President then declared that a state of war exists between the two countries. Do we round up all Iranians in the US? If we didn't, there would be immense problems arising. But if we did, do we round up only alien Iranians? What do we do then with American-Iranian children?

Must we first give all enemy aliens a fair trial to prove they are not a threat to America? How? And in what space of time?

It seems there is too much emphasis on the brotherhood of all races in the US, that no matter what country you are from, you have an oasis here, freedom to enjoy liberty and the pursuit of happiness, without regard to the danger of first loyalties and cultural ties. We have seen this only recently in 9/11. We are vulnerable to attack by those in our midst.

Was evacuation of people of Japanese ancestry, therefore, wrong of the US? Did the Govt. engage in illegal actions in dealing with these people, who happened to be from the very nation that deliberately attacked American Forces on Hawaii?

Was it right or wrong? We may forever be proving either side of the argument. But one thing we cannot escape is that it did indeed happen. There is no changing that. No amount of apology and monetary compensation can ever change that fact. The same can be said about all of WWII -- the POWs, the bombings, the psychological scars, the destroyed lives.

There are those, like myself, who see God's sovereign hand in all events, and who harbor no ill-will or vindictive spirit against their fellow man. "Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord, I will repay..." -- these words are no less true today than when they were first spoken.

God is the Supreme Lawgiver, and the Supreme Lawyer -- His judgment is always right, and always just. Our sense of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, is finite -- we cannot know all there is to know. Those who recognize that God, Who alone has all knowledge, is perfectly right in all He does will be able to view history with all its complexities with a fuller understanding. It is my hope that this foundational truth will be well established in the minds of all those who seek to better understand this brief moment in the history of these two countries, Japan and the United States.

What took place after December 7, 1941, was an amalgamation of nationalism and racism, which culminated in a complete polarization between things Japanese and things American in each warring state. The conflation of the national and the racial in the American public discourse deprived Japanese immigrants of access to the ruling ideology. In the intersections of nationalizing racism and racializing nationalism, the universality of exclusionist politics prevailed against the Japanese, enabling white racism to function as a super-American nationalism that drastically shrank the boundaries of nationality and resulted in the total repudiation of the Issei and Nisei on the West Coast. Hence came Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt's casual suspension of Japanese American citizenship rights: "The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on the United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become 'Americanized,' their racial strains are undiluted." On February 19, 1942, just a week after this "final recommendation," President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the removal of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast states and parts of Arizona. Although Yale law professor Eugene Rostow later characterized this episode as "our worst wartime mistake," it was not a mistake at all. The Japanese American incarceration signified a historical moment when the cultural, racial, and national Otherness of the Asian was most lucidly articulated, most undisputed, and most resolutely dealt with by the American citizenry and state.
-- Eiichiro Azuma, Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America (2005)


A continuing blog of my comments on news articles.

VIII. DISCUSSION -- Emails & Letters, Pro & Con


It has been said that no other WWII subject has been covered as much as the Japanese evacuation and relocation in the U.S.; one cannot fail to note that, within the last 20 years, much has been written which is critical of the U.S. Government's decisions and policies regarding the whole episode.

After you read through these pages I have assembled, I would be most interested in your thoughts, the new insights you have gained, your criticisms, and your solutions. If you had been there, what would you have done with the people of Japanese ancestry? How would you have handled the bigotry, the intelligence presented to you, the pressures of a war on two fronts, the needs of the entire American populace in general, including those of Japanese, German and Italian ancestry?

I will post your responses, if you wish, with privacy to name and location honored. Please let me know where you are coming from -- are you pro, con, a little of both, or undecided. How much have you read on the issue? A lot of people read a book or see a movie and then form concrete opinions. Fill me in on your background, your motivation, and be as clear & concise as you can in your comments and/or questions.

I would like especially to throw out a challenge to the critics to come up with a better plan as to what should have been done with these 35,000 Japanese enemy aliens in the US, and their US-citizen children, and the remaining adult single Nisei. Should these families have been split up, with alien parents in internment and children in centers, and the US Govt. paying for both? Or let the children remain in their homes? Or do nothing at all with all of them? In other words, what could the US have done differently?

As you formulate your ideas, please remember this: Try to put yourself into that time frame, that period in history, without regard to the hindsight afforded us now, without all the modern conveniences and technologies that we have today, under much different living conditions than we have now, and a different mindset towards other races.


With only a simple search on the Internet, one will quickly find a number of links to educational pages regarding the story of Japanese evacuation and relocation. I submit this page with a similar motive and the hope of promoting a more complete knowledge of the events of those years in American history. Students are welcome to use these pages, which I have personally transcribed, for whatever use they may see fit in order to further their education.

I challenge you to read through all of these documents, every one of them, as there are comments and various points contained that are pieces of the larger puzzle, bits of information that fills in the blanks. Fitting these pieces all together and standing back to look at the picture will, I trust, be rewarding.

I would highly recommend to developers of curricula on Japanese-American studies that lesson material include selections from these webpages. Students will be challenged by the variety of topics covered, and perhaps be forced to view assumptions from new angles.

Be sure to check out the questions I have put together for use in curriculum.


I have assembled here an assortment of thoughts which I developed while working on the various documents. I hope they will be a springboard to provoke more thought and study into this subject of immense complexity.
  • There were several exclusion proclamations issued by Attorney General Biddle, even prior to E.O. 9066:
    • January 29, 1942 - San Francisco and Los Angeles declared as prohibited areas to all alien enemies
    • January 31, 1942 - 69 additional areas in California designated as prohibited
    • February 2, 1942 - 15 additional areas in California designated as prohibited
    • February 4, 1942 - 7 areas in Washington and 24 areas in Oregon designated as prohibited; entire coastline of California from Oregon border to 50 miles north of L.A. designated as restricted area
    • February 7, 1942 - 18 areas in Arizona designated as prohibited
  • E. O. 9066 merely authorized the Secretary of War and military commanders to determine both military areas and who should be excluded from those areas, and those individuals could even include U.S. citizens -- if deemed necessary, every single person in those areas. However, it did not order any evacuation at all. The following were the exclusion orders, over a month later:
    • Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1, March 24, 1942 - Bainbridge Island, Washington
    • Civilian Exclusion Orders No. 2 and No. 3, March 30, 1942 - Areas near Terminal Island in southern California; vicinity of Los Angeles
    • Civilian Exclusion Orders No. 4 and No. 5, April 1, 1942 - San Diego County, California; San Francisco waterfront
    • Civilian Exclusion Order No. 6, April 7, 1942 - Los Angeles County, California
    • Civilian Exclusion Orders No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9, April 20, 1942 - Additional areas in Los Angeles County: Santa Monica, West L.A., San Fernando Valley
  • Was the whole evacuation and relocation program a waste of time and money? If so, the Corps of Engineers in their budget pre-assessments would have decided it was so and gone another route. But they did not. There must have been good reasons for continuing with the program even though the costs and logistics were huge. Along this line, the question must be asked: was the whole war then a waste of time and money?
  • Many of us do not realize just how many Japanese organizations -- business, cultural, and religious -- were here in the US prior to WWII, nor the potential danger they would have posed to security had they continued during the war. The documents on the Tokyo Club, or the Japanese Central Association (discussed in IA094), shed some light on the enormity of these networks within the US. Furthermore, the monetary and social support contributed to these many organizations by the Japanese community on the West Coast was quite considerable and not to be overlooked. A comparison of how much support came from US-resident enemy alien German and Italian nationals for their own countries would be an enlightening study.

Nikkei-owned businesses in Seattle and Portland, 1941
(from National Defense Migration, Portland and Seattle Hearings, Problems of Evacuation of Enemy Aliens and Others from Prohibited Military Zones, 1942)
  • What must have been in the thoughts of those men, privy to ONI, G-2 and other top secret intelligence, who were bombarded with accusations of racism and prejudice against the Japanese people in the US? What integrity they held in the face of that onslaught! They did not waver an inch and kept the secret without any hint of its existence. Not until nearly 40 years later were these secrets made known, and it is with great respect we remember those men -- British, Australians, Americans -- who labored, and suffered greatly, to keep those secrets with which they were entrusted perfectly safe, not only during the war, but until the day they died.
  • Language unity is of great importance in any society, a glue which binds together a people. There is a great need for our Government to stress the importance of English language study for immigrants, to promote English as the language for all commerce, industry and services. Had the early Japanese immigrants learned English to begin with and got a good hold on that language, what a different situation it may have been on the West Coast (see TL43).
  • Dillon Myer often mentioned that he wanted all the people at the centers to return to normal living conditions. In fact, he urged the revocation of the evacuation orders as early as April 1944.
  • Robinson in FDR and the Internment mentions other books in the early 1900's dealing with the Japanese threat and the emphasis on racism. What would be interesting to probe is the influence of Darwin's theory of evolution -- subtitled "Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" (viz. the white races surviving as fittest & hence supreme) -- on race issues vis-a-vis the Japanese.
  • What exactly was it that made the Japanese race so odious to Americans in the decades preceding the war? Was it the language barrier? Cultural insularism? The fact that they had just been liberated from 250 years of isolation and did not know how to deal with other nationalities? Was it communication problems, and the tendency to stay in groups rather than gregariousness? These problems are evident today with immigrants -- foreign neighbors who do not speak English well or do not socialize with the general community, conducting themselves in a manner or custom not known to the general public, to the consternation of onlookers. The Japanese nation is known for its "groupism." That is a part of their culture, and for that concept to exist in a nation that stresses individualism would cause a tremendous amount of friction. Therefore the assimilation issue was raised (see TL20; also Tayama's comments in IA201: "the Issei had endeavored at all times to maintain the traditions of Japan in the United States."). Perhaps they were just too tradition-minded, and so neighbors thought them to be more foreign than American. Situations with immigrants today are very similar, and it will always be so with anyone living in a foreign land.
Love ye therefore the stranger:
for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19
  • There are many verses in the Bible regarding foreigners, "strangers" (a search here shows 198 references for "stranger" in the Bible), and how, if they were to live among the Israelites, they were to abide by all the laws, manners and customs of the Jewish nation. Conversely, the Israelites were commanded not to oppress them, but to love them as their own selves. Much blame can be placed on Americans for their "vexing" of immigrant strangers. Hence, the legal battle of the Japanese-American's should really have been directed at the general American public rather than the US Govt. It should also have included a major claim for compensation against the Japanese Govt. for its lack of support.
  • About prejudice: Consider these two statements -- "Japanese are hard workers," and "Japanese are sneaky." Most would say the 2nd statement shows prejudice, but the 1st statement is equally so. Both need qualification -- just exactly who are we talking about. It is interesting to note that the Apostle Paul considered the common saying to be true, that the inhabitants of the island of Crete were "slow bellies," i.e. they were slothful and intemperate (Titus 1:12, 13). There are, therefore, truths, even though on the surface appear to be discriminatory stereotypes.
  • Living standards in the centers -- The barracks, by today's standards, were indeed austere, bleak and undesirable. However, it could very well be said the living quarters were indeed better than what the Issei may have had previously in Japan, or indeed what they had just moved from, given the large families and low income levels. Photos are available showing the different living standards back then in post-depression-era U.S.A. -- for many, however, the depression was not over and the centers provided a raise in their standard of living. One can find in many areas in Japan even today housing conditions which by our standards are cramped and of inferior quality. The danger lies in using today's standards to judge standards of the 1930's and 40's. This is a force, almost like gravity -- unseen yet very active -- that historians must come to grips with else they will be sucked into the vortex of false assumptions. It would be similar to living on the moon -- all your ways of doing things would have to change drastically due to a whole new environment; your actions and reactions will change.
  • Speaking of photographs, there are some who feel the images taken by famous photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams were staged, that is, the persons photographed at the assembly and relocation centers were only smiling for the photographer, instead of showing what they percieve as the "true situation," i.e. grim, horrific, and hopeless. One has only to spend a short time looking through the hundreds of images online taken by a variety of photographers then (media and otherwise) to see the unreasonableness of such an assumption. I found these photographs here to be quite representative -- it is very hard to believe all the people in the photos were suffering from their "grim circumstances" as they attended and partook in dances, plays, festivals, sporting events, and even weddings.
  • If the epithet were true, that the centers were really "concentration camps," then there surely would have been escape attempts. Yet there are no reports of fences cut or tunnels dug. Also, where is evidence of mass protests and refusals after EO9066 and subsequent proclamations if there were indeed a "forced removal"? The truth of the matter will reveal that the evacuees were eager to live in a place free from fear of attack, retaliation, discrimination, prejudice, mockery -- a movement of a very willing people, and therefore the whole process went virtually without a hitch. Furthermore, regarding "forced removal," the leave & resettlement program began in July 1942, and later in October, allowed even aliens to be eligible for indefinite leave. Within a year, over 15,000 had left on seasonal or indefinite leave -- no one "forced" to do anything here. On Oct. 1, 1942, indefinite leave was allowed, so anyone who was evacuated would only have had to live at a center for only 6 months or so; had that person left prior to EO 9102, there would have been no relocation center life for them at all! Consider this:"By June 5, when the movement of evacuees from their homes in Military Area No. 1 into assembly centers was completed..." (TL04). The evacuees could have moved anytime to other locations in the US by June 5, 1942. Perhaps they didn't want to due to the fact many mid-western states did not want them.
  • One theme for further research is the idea that the centers created evacuee dependency on the social care they received, and so it was difficult for many to leave their comfortable living standards when they were allowed (see TL56). Some refused to leave, spoiled by the very program they had perhaps once disdained. See TL52 re not leaving the centers -- some 44,000 people who could have left the centers were still residing there in June 1945; nearly 25,000 had already left in the year leading up to that time, which means almost 2/3 of the evacuees preferred living in the centers in that final year. The relocation program was in many ways a welfare state, not so much helping those who could not help themselves to survive (as in Hawaiian evacuees; see TL06-3), but where many could have chosen not to work at all, and yet would still have been taken care of. It is impressive just how much assistance there was available, even for relocation purposes (see TL47 as well as statistical charts in other WRA publications, e.g. The Evacuated People). Consider also: It may not be readily admitted but the centers provided an oasis from all anti-Japanese sentiment, not only from harassment but from the likelihood that their goods would not have been marketable due to boycotts against Japanese-produced fruits and vegetables and other products. Could there have even been a worse scenario, such as retaliation after Americans heard of Japan's atrocities against our soldiers in the Philippines and elsewhere? (Interestingly, MacArthur recommended the opposite, that Japanese nationals in the U.S. be the "lever under the threat of reciprocal retaliatory measures" and force "applied mercilessly" if necessary. Obviously, this was never carried out, in spite of the fact that Allied civilians in the Philippines were treated mercilessly.)
  • "Detention" is another word that is thrown around casually. Generally speaking, that people were detained at centers can be said, much the same way employees are detained at the workplace -- they can't leave without certain repercussions, hence their liberty is inhibited, though of course with their full understanding, whether willing or unwilling. Same with marriage, staying at home rather than going out somewhere you want to really go. But that the evacuees were in prison-like detention at the centers (not the separate internment or detention camps, mind you) without any escape is hardly an adequate description, else there would have been mass revolts and escapes during the months and years they were at the centers. See usage of "detention" in WRA report IA175.
  • Much can be written in praise of the evacuee labor in agriculture. In TL32 is a very good quote re Idaho workers' help. This has correlation today with migrant workers -- without their work in the fields tons would be lost; the economics of migrant labor is enormous, probably overriding controversial issues such as illegal immigration and dollars sent to the home countries.
  • On the "incarceration of American citizens" -- The last population census in the U.S. prior to WWII was taken in 1940. It showed there were 126,947 people of Japanese ancestry in the continental US (Hawaii and other US territories, by the way, had 158,000). Now, if roughly 110,000 of these nearly 127,000 were in the centers, where were the remaining 17,000? This would be an interesting study to see what became of them -- in my Dedication I mentioned a few; some 5,000 moved out of the West Coast military areas (never lived in relocation centers); around 8,000 were interned by the INS. But the rest?

    Per 1940 Census, ethnic Japanese:
    Total in US = 126,947 (foreign born 47,305)
    Total on West Coast = 112,353 (CA = 93,717; OR = 4,071; WA = 14,565)
    Total in other states = 14,594

    Also, out of the 110,000 in the centers, 72,000 were U.S. citizens, and among those there were about 41,000 19 yrs. of age and under -- children, average age 16, who still lived with their parents. So, since these children could not be separated from their families, basically the whole issue of "incarcerating American citizens" dealt with approx. 31,000 people. Now of those, some 13,000 joined the armed services. Then there were around 10,000 (including Issei) who were out working on farms or elsewhere on seasonal and indefinite leaves, another 15,000 or so (including Issei) relocated within the first year, and there were about 6,000 Nisei who went to colleges and universities, many spending very little time in the centers. This would leave how many then left at the centers who were not minors? Not many at all. And each month the number of those living in centers was getting smaller due to relocating in other non-military zoned areas of the US. Considering these numbers, it answers the assertion that "American citizens spent the entire war in concentration camps."
A battalion of U.S.-born Japs is fighting well in the front line in Italy; another 2,500 Japanese-Americans are elsewhere in the U.S. Army; hundreds serve in Military Intelligence in the South Pacific; 20,000, cleared by FBI, now live in the Midwest & East.
-- TIME magazine, Dec. 20, 1943

Hitoshi Fukui, Cleveland, Ohio, 1/1944
Mr. Hitoshi Fukui of Los Angeles and the Heart Mountain Relocation Center now leases and operates a small downtown hotel in Cleveland. An Issei (born in Japan), Mr. Fukui is a veteran of World War I, and the result of this and his high standing in his community, was granted American citizenship. His wife Chieko is a Nisei (born in the United States). The Fukuis have two children, a daughter and a son, Soichi, who is a student at Oberlin College. "We believe it is a mistake to stay in the centers. It is bad for our people to be bitter. They should come out and begin to live again." -- Cleveland, Ohio. 1/?/44 (The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Issei prevented from becoming naturalized -- I am still looking for statistical information that would show just how many Issei were naturalized when they were permitted to, and how many simply did not want to. I have heard that there were not that many who chose naturalization prior to the anti-naturalization law of 1924 (see interesting chronology here). If so, the concept (a concept that even Dillon Myer believed, see TL62) that the Issei would have chosen to become naturalized if they had been given the chance, thereby they would be protected by the US Constitution, does not have much that force at all. Other ethnic groups did not avail themselves of the naturalization laws, apparently due to the stringent language requirements. I have read also that the Japanese Govt. did not allow her hojin to become citizens of the United States, but this point needs verification.
  • Loyalty and registration -- The key word is "faithful," and the idea of not betraying your own country, especially the problem of betraying one's trust. There is nothing wrong with trying to find out if someone is really true to their word. Can you trust that person? How do you know you can? In companies the #1 threat of theft comes from employees, not outsiders. In the same way, the threat the ethnic Japanese presented in the US was not something that was to be taken lightly. The unfortunate thing was that it encompassed their children who were US citizens by birth. It had nothing to do with discrimination, just as in a company it does not -- the issue was with human nature. Therefore a registration process was necessary to determine just how faithful a person claimed to be. The same oath is administered to any person who wants to become a US citizen. Read this from the official US Govt. page on naturalization:
Oath of Allegiance to the United States – The oath you take to become a citizen. When you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, you are promising to give up your allegiance to other countries and to support and defend the United States, the Constitution, and our laws. You must be able to take and understand the Oath of Allegiance in order to become a naturalized citizen.

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God." (
Remember, the whole purpose of the registration process was to enable the evacuees to leave the centers. Question #28 was a simple question that would help determine who could leave. If I were asked either version of #28 (see here in Comments), or the above official version, I would not hesitate at all to give an answer in the affirmative. In fact, the majority of registrants did indeed answer "Yes" to the question. See TL21 and IA106 for more. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that there were Issei, Nisei, and Kibei who were under investigation for subversive activities in the US, and it was their connections with the extensive networks of Japanese organizations that impacted nearly the whole of the ethnic Japanese in the US, due largely to the fact that the Issei, who were primarily under surveillance as "enemy aliens" and represented 30% of the ethnic population, had families which made up the other 70%, who were not under surveillance but yet were involved only because of their family connections. There is reference to a sad situation where even the Imperial Japanese did not feel the Nisei who went to Japan could be trusted. This may explain why the extra effort by those educated in the US to display their patriotism by being extra harsh on Allied POWs over whom they were interpreters and guards.

As the best possible evidence of their loyalty to this country... Japanese and alien Italians and Germans who may be required to move should continue their farming operations. -- Western Defense Command HQ Press Release re advice to enemy aliens and Japanese-American citizens, March 6, 1942

  • From TL04: "The overwhelming fear of the evacuees -- the one which most deeply influenced their efforts toward adjustment -- was their anxiety about the post-war future. Younger evacuees in particular were frequently heard asking questions such as : 'Where shall we go from here after the war?' 'How shall we earn a living?' 'What will be the long-time effect of life here upon our character, and how will we be affected in our future adjustments?'" I would say the future of these youth turned out well, very successful for many; compare with the civilian internees who returned from Japan after the war.

You are about to read an account of a young Japanese who arrived in the United States as a student on the eve of the Pacific War, and stayed there throughout and beyond the war years. This preface is intended to forewarn contemporary American readers about something they will not find here, whose absence they may find disconcerting.

The missing element is racial discrimination against the protagonist. If you expect these memoirs to be made up of a litany of outbursts of grief and fury by a victim of prejudice, you will be disappointed.

Yet you cannot be blamed if such are your expectations. The setting seems to have been perfect; In the first place I was a Japanese, a foreigner in America. In addition, I was officially an enemy alien, because of the unusual circumstances in which I found myself. The Pearl Harbor attack exposed Japan and Japanese people to violent opprobrium: They were characterized in the press as treacherous, cunning, untrustworthy, barbaric, bestial, sadistic, and so on, almost ad infinitum. Americans today [1991] over fifty years of age perhaps remember the intense anti-Japanese sentiment that enveloped continental America at that time. By today's standards, it would seem, I was doubly qualified to be a target of hatred. Yet such was not the case.

The fact is that I spent seven delightful and fruitful years in America including the war years, and found myself among friends wherever I went.
--- Kiyoaki Murata, from his Preface to
An Enemy Among Friends

Questions to Ask - a little questionnaire for all those concerned with the issues

-- Table of Contents --