Internment Archives

Historical Introduction

During the early days of WW II people of Japanese ancestry were evacuated from the West Coast. It happened. The problem is it didn't happen the way it is told in the popular press, on radio and TV, and in hundreds of exhibits and displays around the country.

For the last 25 years our country has been subjected to an Orwellian construct of that event's history and millions in government money have been spent to propagate this incorrect account of the evacuation, largely for the benefit of a particular racial group who wished to obtain money and power.

This construct was born in the early 1980s when the Congressionally sanctioned Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) began its outrageous investigation of the evacuation. Without considering most of the declassified intelligence that described the threat from the Japanese population during WW II and totally ignoring the MAGIC intercepts of Japanese cable traffic that described the organization and operation of some of the Japanese espionage networks in America, the Commission concluded that there was no military reason for the evacuation. Furthermore, it concluded that the order to evacuate was based largely on "racism, war hysteria and a lack of political will." Congress then passed a law accepting the Commission's findings and authorized redress payments and an apology from the President on behalf of the country.

Included in this law was a provision for $5 million dollars to be spent on grants for studies and projects that supported the Commission's approved history of the event. What followed were the more dramatic renditions of the event that money could buy.

When federal money ran out, California and Washington State continued to support the propagation of these flawed findings with their own local tax dollars. California spends up to $1 million a year on projects reflecting the Commission's flawed findings and Washington State spends tens of thousands of dollars.

The Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives have also added their support to this historical perversion. The National Museum of American History even accepted a large donation for its exhibit, "A More Perfect Union" from a Japanese industrialist who was charged as a Class A war criminal in 1945. A critique of this exhibit can be found here along with the Smithsonian's response. This permanent exhibit has since been removed from the National Museum of American History.

Myriad articles, television shows, books, displays, lesson plans, and movies have been produced perpetuating the Commission's flawed findings and various other fabrications and conclusions. The process of supporting a particular historical thesis with numerous secondary sources was a propaganda technique developed before WW II in Germany.

Lost in the story, thus portrayed, are descriptions of the threat to our country from Imperial Japanese agents, including Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans. Missing is a balanced treatment of national efforts to help, provide for, and protect the Japanese involved in the evacuation. Ignored are traitorous acts by thousands who wanted to return to Japan to fight for the emperor and efforts by the U.S. Government to redress losses on three separate occassions during and after the war.

Finally, anyone found speaking out against or even contesting the approved version of the evacuation is called a racist, among other things, and subjected to public abuse.

The result of all this is that anyone seeking information on the subject must usually settle for the Commission's (CWRIC) flawed findings. Primary documentation is difficult to obtain and thus, the Congressionally approved and incorrect history of this event is continually recycled and reinforced in the public's consciousness.

This archive was developed to allow students of history access to primary documentation related to the Japanese evacuation that they would otherwise not find in schools, libraries, museums, or other information sources. In doing so this archive hopes to give students of history a better understanding of the difficult situation America's leaders were in at the beginning of World War II.

One need not agree with Franklin Roosevelt's order to evacuate Japanese to appreciate the difficulties of the time. First, there was the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Then, the MAGIC intercepts revealed widespread espionage networks along the West Coast. And finally, America's leaders needed to find a solution that could be reasonably successful at removing the security risk this large population represented during a time when the nation was frantically gearing up for war on two fronts.

The magnitude of the evacuation effort was considerable. It was a project that could not have been as effectively carried out had not most of the Japanese involved been supportive of the program. Most cooperated admirably because they undoubtedly recognized the exigencies the country was facing. As documents in this archive will reveal, much was done to minimize the difficulties the evacuees faced.

In more recent times the cooperative nature of much of the evacuation has been misrepresented as government sponsored histories increasingly refer to relocation centers as concentration camps. The use of words to convey ominous connotations is another familiar Orwellian technique.

Because most people seeking information from this archive will be unfamiliar with anything other than the flawed findings of the CWRIC that have been widely propagated, the primary documentation presented here may at first seem confusing since it doesn't fit into the structure of the event they are familiar with.

For that reason I suggest first-time visitors take the time to read one or both of the pieces written by two scholars who have independently presented their historical analysis of the evacuation. Doing so will provide background understanding and a framework that will be useful in evaluating and understanding the material in the archive.

Dwight Murphey was a professor at Wichita State University when he wrote his book, The Dispossession of the American Indian - And Other Key Issues in American History. The second section of the book deals with the Japanese evacuation. B. Rice Aston, a former President General of the Sons of the American Revolution and an attorney, wrote another study, The Rest of the Story which also gives a good overview of this event.

Finally, let it be understood that the evacuation was not motivated by "racism, war hysteria and a lack of political will." It was an action the U.S. Government took because Imperial Japan put it into a difficult situation.

Imperial Japan regularly used ethnic Japanese all over Asia to collect military intelligence and support its invasions in the countries it wanted to conquer. When Japan's highest diplomatic codes were broken by the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service in early 1940 they revealed that Japan was indeed using Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans to build large espionage networks in the United State just like it had in other parts of the world. When ethnic Japanese in America failed to reveal this treachery to the U.S. Government, and refused, in many cases, to assist the U.S. Government in its investigations, America had to find some quick and sure solution to the threat.

Evacuation, internment, and relocation may not have been ideal solutions, but there can be no doubt based upon the materials presented in this archive that America's leaders were successful in eliminating Japan's espionage networks while also providing as much protection and care as possible for the Japanese population it displaced during the war.