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.
Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D.Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, authorized what was to become the mass forced removal and incarceration of all Japanese Americans on the West Coast.The order authorized the secretary of war and any military commander designated by him “to prescribe military areas…from which any or all persons may be excluded.” The order does not mention Japanese Americans by name
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.
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. Today, Heart Mountain remains a poignant reminder of t
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) was organized on March 23, 1943, after more than a year during which Americans of Japanese descent were declared enemy aliens, 4-C, by the U.S.War Department.It had taken all that time plus several key events to convince the Roosevelt Administration that these men should be allowed to enter combat for their country.Eventually, the 442nd, bolstered by the combat-hardened 100th Infantry Battalion, comprised of Japanese American draftees from Hawai’i, became the most decorated unit i
“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.
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.
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 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.
No 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
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.
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.
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.
Until recently, it was unclear how closely Mike Masaoka (National Secretary of the JACL during the War) had worked and collaborated with the War Relocation Authority. In particular, many long had suspected that Masaoka was behind the idea of “segregating” internees considered “disloyal” to America into a special camp of their own.