Impetus for Book
The impetus for the book came in 1968 when Weglyn heard a statement on television from then former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who said that “there had never been, never were, nor will there ever be concentration camps in this country.” She was also influenced by her reading of the book, While Six Million People Died, by Arthur Morse, detailing the Roosevelt administration’s indifference to rescuing Jews from Hitler’s Holocaust.
For the next eight years, she culled primary records from the New York City Library, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the Franklin Roosevelt Home and Museum in New York, to find evidence to expiate Japanese Americans from the military necessity argument used by the U.S. government in incarcerating 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
Chapter 1: The Secret Munson Report
Released as part of a Congressional investigation into the causes of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1945 and 1946, the Munson Report was an investigation by Curtis B. Munson, special representative for the State Department, who was ordered by President Roosevelt to establish the degree of loyalty among Japanese Americans on the West Coast and in Hawaii.
Chapter 2: Hostages
Details of the “hemispheric” operation to incarcerate people of Japanese ancestry orchestrated by the U.S. Justice Department are outlined in this chapter. Countries involved include Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. Many were transported to the U.S. Mainland.
Chapter 3: “So the Army Could Handle the Japs”
This chapter discusses the events leading up to EO 9066, conceived by Lt. Col. Karl Bendetsen as a means of bypassing the Constitution by designating military zones as excluded areas under the control of the U.S. Army. Attorney General Francis Biddle was the only Roosevelt advisor to argue the racist basis for such an order, but was ultimately shut down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chapter 4: Outcasts
Weglyn describes daily life behind barbed wire—from registration to dispersal—and various camps for children and adults alike.
Chapter 5: Reentry into America
Keeping the farm economy solvent became the next goal of the U.S. government in offering work furloughs for internees to leave camp to work in places like Utah and ultimately parts of the East and Midwest.
Chapter 6: “Dear Mr. President”
Protestors to the mass incarceration, most notably the Quakers, are discussed in this chapter. Individuals like the University of California’s Dr. Robert Gordon Sproul and Dr. Monroe E. Deutsch are cited as primary advocates for the rights of incarcerated college students.
Chapter 7: Storm Warnings
With some leaders finally expressing regret over the wartime incarceration, a period of change and exacerbation within the leadership of the War Relocation Authority began. This chapter examines the resulting unrest between factions representing the Issei, Kibei and Nisei that began to sweep through the camps.
Chapter 8: Loyalty—Disloyalty
Early 1943 saw the rigorous plan to register detainees by administering a loyalty questionnaire. This process, which led to recruitment into the military, resistance to the draft, as well as renunciation, is detailed. The ensuing controversies both within and without the camps are also discussed.
Chapter 9: Tule Lake
The secrets behind the relocation center-turned-segregation center are revealed in this chapter about the suppressive techniques used to quell the so-called “disloyals” at Tule Lake in response to mass demonstrations, hunger strikes, and rioting.
Chapter 10: The Stockade
Because those “relocated” individuals held at Tule Lake were not considered prisoners, what followed was a period of confusion over Geneva Convention protocols. First-hand reports from Northern California ACLU’s Ernest Besig and attorney Wayne Collins expose the legal and physical atrocities perpetrated while being held in the Stockade at Tule Lake.
Chapter 11: To Liberate or Not to Liberate
The role of Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes in urging the end to the mass exclusion and the subsequent deliberation in the administration is detailed. The effect of ongoing litigation, including the case of Korematsu v. U.S., among others, is also discussed.
Chapter 12: Renunciation
As a compromise measure proposed by Attorney General Francis Biddle, Public Law 405 offered “denaturalization” for Kibei, Issei and Nisei. The resulting agitation among nationalistic groups at Tule Lake and the increased militancy is detailed here.
Chapter 13: Native American Aliens
Attorney Wayne Collins’ efforts on behalf of those whose American citizenship was in question resulted in the filing of two mass petitions for 987 renunciants, and his nearly 25-year legal battles on their behalf are recounted.
Chapter 14: Epilogue
Taking the plight of the Japanese Americans into the 1970s, this chapter discusses the aftermath of the mass incarceration and its effects—both financial and emotional—on those whose lives were interrupted as well as that of future generations.