California State University Japanese American Digitization Project: An Exhibit


American Incarceration Camps: The War Relocation Authority (WRA) was established in 1942 to administer the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans in permanent camps outside the West Coast exclusion zones. Ten WRA camps were built in Gila River and Poston, Arizona; Jerome and Rohwer, Arkansas; Manzanar and Tule Lake, California; Granada, Colorado; Minidoka, Idaho; Topaz, Utah; and Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Placed in deserts and out-of-the-way locations, the camps consisted of barracks, mess halls, communal latrines, hospitals, post offices, schools, factories and farms. All had barbed wire or fences with guard towers. In addition to the WRA incarceration camps, there were several other locations where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II, including: WCCA Temporary Assembly Centers, WRA Citizen Isolation Centers, Department of Justice Internment Camps, U.S. Army Internment Camps, or other facilities. Included among these camps was the Crystal City, Texas operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Though the WRA attempted to camouflage the effects of the camps on its inhabitants through various PR campaigns, the stark environment of the camps were always apparent. Those incarcerated attempted to keep to a routine of work and occasional recreation. The camps began to close in early 1945 although Tule Lake was open until 1946.

Loyalty?: A “loyalty questionnaire” was given to all Japanese Americans age 17 and over in the camps. Question 27 inquired if an individual would be willing to serve as a combat soldier, nurse, or in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Question 28 stated: “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States...and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?” These questions resulted in a great deal of outrage, confusion, and controversy. Japanese American citizens (Nisei) resented being asked to renounce loyalty to someone who had never been their Emperor. First generation Japanese Americans (Issei) could not gain U.S. citizenship, thus renouncing their Japanese citizenship would leave them stateless. Those who answered “no” to one or both of the questions were designated as “disloyal” to the U.S. These individuals and their families were sent to Tule Lake Segregation Center on the California-Oregon border. Many immigrants and citizens determined that it was possibly safer to be “repatriated” to Japan rather than stay in the United States. The concept of giving up United States citizenship, though shocking to some, was a choice of serious consideration and implications. Many feared for their safety after being released from the camps and so determined Japan after World War II would be safer than the U.S. Others were outraged with their imprisonment. Ultimately, many were repatriated, while many others who signed up to go to Japan decided to stay in the U.S.

Image: Reading News at Manzanar, circa 1943 (CSUN)

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