About the Japanese American Internment

The Japanese American Internment

The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is an oft-overlooked and shameful chapter of American history.  In the aftermath of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt authorized, through Executive Order 9066, the forced evacuation of approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese descent from the West Coast of the U.S. and their involuntary internment in ten concentration camps on American soil.  About two-thirds of the internees were American citizens.

Although many reasons were given at the time for the internment, all of them have been discredited as based in racial prejudice, animus, war-time hysteria and failure of political leadership. No U.S. citizen or alien of Japanese descent was ever charged with, let alone found guilty of, any act of espionage or sabotage, even though the U.S. government had insisted these concerns underlay its egregious policy.  Decades later, the U.S. apologized for its actions and provided certain monetary reparations to surviving internees.

Allegiance – a new American musical, tells the story of a Japanese American family and their struggle to stay united and strong when the unimaginable happens and they are imprisoned in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in the wastelands of Wyoming.  The history of the internment of Japanese Americans is a fascinating and little-known part of our country’s history. This page offers a few of the hundreds of publicly available links as a starting point to learning more about this national tragedy.  We encourage you to discover and explore more about our show and its historical setting.

Check back often, as this section will be updated with content and additional resources, some of which will be originally collated and created for this site, to help continue the dialogue, and to remember and understand, in the hope that we never repeat this mistake again. 

May 10, 2014

David Ono’s Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain (Part 1)

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – Heart Mountain is a spectacular and beautiful backdrop to a story of triumph and tragedy. Seventy years ago, an internment camp filled with 10,000 Japanese Americans sat in the shadow of the mountain.

It was just a few miles outside Cody, Wyoming, where the land is rugged and the weather is brutal. It’s where American citizens were imprisoned behind barbed wire and guard towers for no other reason than because of their heritage. Eight out of 10 were from Los Angeles.

Sep 25, 2012
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Mike Masaoka’s rebuttal to critics

In 1982, at the JACL national convention, Mike Masaoka firmly rebutted his detractors criticisms, defended his decisions, his actions and those of the JACL against those who accused him of being a collaborator and an informant to the FBI.

27th Biennial JACL National Convention
Airport Hyatt Hotel, Los Angeles
August 10, 1982

I must say that I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be here for a number of reasons and since this is the first time that I have been able to address the group formally, I want to take this opportunity to thank all you for your kindness during my recent illness.

Sep 22, 2012
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Heart Mountain

Located roughly eight miles away from its namesake, Heart Mountain concentration camp and its inmate population are perhaps best known for their role in fomenting and supporting draft resistance amongst the Nisei during World War II.

Located roughly eight miles away from its namesake, Heart Mountain concentration camp and its inmate population are perhaps best known for their role in fomenting and supporting draft resistance amongst the Nisei during World War II.At maximum capacity, 10,767 inmates from California, Oregon, and Washington were imprisoned at Heart Mountain, including a number who were transferred to Heart Mountain from Jerome concentration camp in Arkansas.[1] Today, Heart Mountain remains a poignant reminder of t

Sep 22, 2012
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JACL Official Statement on Allegiance

The JACL is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the USA. JACL commends the producers and writers of Allegiance for promoting an increased awareness and interest in the Japanese American Experience during WWII

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States.  JACL commends the producers and writers of Allegiance, a new American musical that premiered on September 19, for promoting an increased awareness and interest in the Japanese American experience during World War II.

Sep 21, 2012
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Frank Emi

Should an American citizen have been forced to fight for freedom and democracy abroad when denied those rights in his own country? Frank Emi (1916–2010) was the one of the leaders of a resistance movement who dared question the legality of drafting Japanese American men, already incarcerated in remotely located concentration camps, into the U.S. Army during World War II. Convicted of conspiracy to violate the Selective Service Act, Emi served eighteen months in a federal penitentiary and the rest of his life defending his stance.

Sep 5, 2012
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JACL Apologizes to Draft Resisters

In July 2000, the national Japanese American Citizens League voted to apologize for its suppression of wartime resistance. Several JACL old-timers walked out in protest.” On Saturday, May 11, 2002, about 300 people filled the gym at the San Francisco Japanese American Community and Cultural Center for the Nisei Resisters of Conscience of World War II Recognition and Reconciliation Ceremony.

The event was remarkable for a number of reasons:

Aug 31, 2012
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The “Mike Masaoka” Controversy

The controversy surrounding Mike Masaoka's role in the events that make up the setting of Allegiance is grounded in recent additions to the historical record

The Heart Mountain resister trialNo figure in Japanese American history stirs as much debate—indeed, as much heated controversy, even to this day—as Mike “Moses” Masaoka, the National Secretary of the Japanese American Citizens League during World War II.Masaoka was only 26 years old when he assumed de facto leadership of the JACL, filling a void left after the U.S.government rounded up thousands of first generation “Issei” leaders and detained them, often for years without charge or trial, following the bombing

The Heart Mountain Resisters

The heroes of the 442nd Regimental Combat team are revered within the Japanese American community, and in the military annals, as the bravest and most decorated unit of the entire war. Less known to history were the 63 men of Heart Mountain Relocation Center who refused enlistment in the Army on grounds they should not have to fight for a country that had so unjustly imprisoned them and their families. Read about their story here.

Mike Masaoka & The JACL

The only non-fictional, historical character in Allegiance is Mike Masaoka, the charismatic and controversial past National Secretary of the Japanese American Citizens League. Read about why Masaoka continues to this day to be a figure who generates so much passionate discussion.

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The 1942 WRA Memo

A confidential memo penned by Mike Masaoka, to the War Relocation Authority

Masaoka and the JACL advocated an “assimilationist” policy within the ten internment camps that stressed American values and traditions while attempting to reduce or eliminate Japanese cultural influences.

Masaoka believed strongly that it was the Americanization of internees that ultimately would lead to their acceptance within U.S. society. These recommendations were summarized in this memo to the War Relocation Authority in April of 1942, a few months before most internees arrived at camp. Nearly all of his policies were implemented by the WRA within the camps.

Jul 19, 2012
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Conscience and the Constitution

The story of the Heart Mountain draft resisters

For more Information visit:  http://www.pbs.org/itvs/conscience/

“In World War II, a handful of young Americans refused to be drafted from an American concentration camp.

They were ready to fight for their country, but not before the government restored their rights as U.S. citizens and released their families from camp. It was a classic example of civil disobedience — but the government prosecuted them as criminals and Japanese American leaders and veterans ostracized them as traitors.